Day 8: If Caitlin Foord is being Sam Kerr, who is being Caitlin Foord?
Nigeria upset the hosts as 2019’s finalists draw
Australia 2 - Nigeria 3
Wow. This match was undoubtedly the game of the tournament so far. Until this moment, the group stages have broadly been a set of cagey wins with a clean sheet in tow but Nigeria blew all of that wide open.
Let’s talk about some of the cultural significance of this first. Nigeria came to the tournament threatening to boycott their opening match against Canada due to unpaid bonuses from their federations. Now they are on the cusp of qualifying for the knock-out stages. Meanwhile when Asisat Oshoala scored Nigeria’s third goal, she became the first African player to score in three World Cup tournaments. Her celebration said it all.
Australia were not bad, they were just playing in a world that did not exist for them anymore. The blow of Sam Kerr’s injury loomed large in their first match against Ireland but it loomed even larger here, with Caitlin Foord forced to pair up with Emily van Egmond after Mary Fowler sustained a concussion during training. Foord worked hard to do a lot of the things that Sam Kerr does for this team. She peeled out wide or dropped deep, looking to win the ball. But when she got into those positions and looked up, there was no Caitlin Foord running in for her. Van Egmond is a more reserved player whilst Cortnee Vine was anonymous for most of the match and Hayley Raso only came alive right at the end. For all of the early Matilda’s possession, they created very little.
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That left the match open for Nigeria to create just enough for an upset. They had shown early on that they were comfortable running at Australia and it was as if once they had conceded they felt free to go for it. Mackenzie Arnold struggled in both the second and third goals, and maybe on a different day or with a different goalkeeper, Australia would not have conceded. As it is they are left needing a win over Canada to go through without help from elsewhere.
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