The Super Falcons of Nigeria will no longer pack their bags away from France after a series of other group results favoured the 13-time African champions who were on the brink of elimination from the group stages of the FIFA Women World Cup in France.
After losing their first game to Norway by a three-goal margin, the Super Falcons needed to get six points themselves or wait for other results from other groups to decide their chances of progressing from the group stages for the first time since 1999.
In their second group encounter, the girls led by Thomas Dennerby dispatched South Korea by two goals – those goals will go on to be crucial to their qualification bid for the knockout phases of the competition.
Enter France. On paper, Les Blues are no match for the Super Falcons but a spirited side led by Desire Oparanozie held France at bay for 75 minutes on Monday before conceding a retaken VAR penalty surrounded by controversy. It was not the result bookmakers expected owing to previous meetings between both sides. Before that encounter, the Falcons had bowed by eight goals to the same opposition in a Friendly in April, 2018.
For the umpteenth time, a Nigerian national team will need permutations, calculators, statistics and “ifs” to qualify/progress in a football Mundial.
The hopes of the African Giants were left to other match fixtures in Groups C, D, E and F as Dennerby’s team hoped to go through among the four best loser teams at the competition.
With China already taking one of the slots reserved for the best third-placed teams, only three spots were left and Nigeria will had to wait until three days later to know their fate.
Red Sea | Permutations
Like the red sea which stood in the way of medieval Israel, the Super Falcons needed these three sets of results to end in their favour or bury any ambition of reaching the round of 16.
First, Scotland needed to beat Argentina or at least hold the South Americans to a draw.
Second, New Zealand needed to hold Cameroon or if either side emerged victorious, it didn’t have to exceed three goals.
Third, “whipping girls” of the tournament, Thailand – who have conceded 19 times in the tournament – had to lose by no more than two goals to Chile.
Like a game of cards, the results couldn’t be projected. They could only be wished for. Luck had to find the representatives of the most populous Black Country – a country of more than 120 million people.
From three goals up on Tuesday, Scotland will later concede in quick succession in less than 20 minutes to Argentina who roared from behind to equalize against the Scottish female team.
On Wednesday, against expectations, Cameroon held nerves of steel to beat New Zealand 2 – 1. Gladly for Barcelona striker Asisat Oshoala and the rest of the team, the victory margin didn’t exceed three goals.
Enter Thursday and the Super Falcons like an unflinching underdog defied the future outcome of whatever result will come off the game between Thailand and Chile. They trained for their round of 16 opponents.
Thailand in this year’s edition of the competition set an infamous record of conceding the highest number of goals in a World Cup game. The Asian ladies were beaten by the USA 13 – 0 and later fell 5 – 1 to Sweden.
Also, Chile had failed to score in their last two group fixtures. But then, no one would trust the thought of Chile not progressing against an opponent with an antecedent of conceding the highest number of goals in one competition.
A resilient Thailand fought hard to avoid bettering their infamous record but the South Americans later got two goals in the second half and minutes to the death of the game, a VAR penalty. A moment of history and success will later evade the Chileans as Francisca Lara’s effort struck the bar, leaving the scoreline favourable at full-time for the Nigerian national team.
After 20 years, the Super Falcons break the jinx and will meet Germany tomorrow Saturday in the quarterfinals of the France 2019 FIFA Women World Cup at 4:30 pm.