Coach Thomas Dennerby says his charges will take the game right to the Germans in Saturday’s World Cup Round of 16 clash at the Stade des Alpes in Grenoble.
The Nigerian side are a popular attraction in Grenoble, as the Falcons defeated Korea Republic 2-0 there in their second match of the group phase on 12th June, and their stock of goodwill is still thick as they return there to confront the more famous Germans.
Germany lashed the Falcons 4-0 in a group phase match at the inaugural FIFA Women’s World Cup finals in China 28 years ago, and then pipped Nigeria 1-0 in another group phase match at the tournament hosted by the Germans eight years ago. Yet, after they qualified as the last team in the Round of 16 on Thursday night, Dennerby assured that the African champions would not be at the Stade des Alpes to admire the boots of the more illustrious opponents.
“I am so happy we have made it to the knockout stage after such a tedious wait. Now that we are there, the hard work continues. The Germans qualified for the tournament and for the Round of 16 like we did, so there would be no reason for any inferiority complex.
“The situation is fluid in today’s football. Glory comes to those who take their chances when they are attacking and tighten things at the back when they are on the backfoot.”
Germany contested in Group B of the championship, defeating China and Spain by the odd goal before hammering African representatives South Africa 4-0. They amassed all nine points without blinking and have a different pedigree from the Super Falcons as far as history and France 2019 are concerned.
Nigeria lost their opening match 0-3 to Norway in Reims, before snatching all three points from the Korea Republic and losing 0-1 – a late penalty – to host nation France in Rennes. Yet, this is the first time in 20 years that Nigeria would be making the knockout stage of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. And with the leading lights of the team unlikely to still be strong enough for the next edition of the competition, an energetic throw-of-the-dice against the Germans on Saturday is most likely.
It is also the first time ever that two African teams will be making the knockout rounds, after Ajara Nchout’s 95th minute winner against New Zealand sent the Indomitable Lionesses to the Round of 16, where they clash with England in Valenciennes on Sunday. Remarkably, the Lionesses also reached the Round of 16 in Canada four years ago.
The Super Falcons will miss the suspended duo of left-back Ngozi Ebere and midfielder Rita Chikwelu. However, Dennerby could draft former captain Evelyn Nwabuoku to fill the gap in the defence, with Osinachi Ohale moving to the left back as another possible option Faith Michael is injured and out of the tournament.
Either Sweden-based Ogonna Chukwudi, home-based Amarachi Okoronkwo or Portugal-based Chinaza Uchendu will start in place of Rita Chikwelu in midfield.