BY ISAAC AFOLABI
The former African champions advanced to the knockout round of the Mundial for only the third time in the competition’s history
Nigeria have qualified for the next round of the ongoing FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia after playing out a goalless with the Republic of Ireland in their last Group B match played inside the Brisbane Stadium.
The Super Falcons are through to the Round of 16 as Group B runners-up courtesy of the draw.
It is the first time in the history of the Mundial that an African team will navigate through the group stage without a defeat.
The Nigerian ladies knew they only needed to avoid defeat to progress to the knockout rounds, and they were more keen to avoid conceding a goal than scoring one.
Still, the best chance of the first half fell to the Super Falcons, but Barcelona striker Oshoala fired wide after a Uchenna Kanu pass set her free on goal.
Despite the Irish girls enjoying the lion’s share of possession in the first half, there was little to separate both teams in the final third.
Despite that, it was arguably Nigeria’s poorest half at the tournament.
They must have received a serious scolding from head coach Randy Waldrum in the dressing room as the Falcons came out smoking in the second half.
The former African champions nearly opened the scoring within the opening ten minutes but Kanu’s header was brilliantly pushed on to the crossbar by the goalkeeper. And moments later, Oshoala had the sight of goal but narrowly shot wide.
The Super Falcons went on to be the better team in the half, but they simply could not find the cutting edge in attack to nip the winner.
With their second goalless draw of the tournament, Nigeria dropped to second in Group B and qualified as runners-up behind Australia.
The Aussies bounced back from their defeat to Nigeria to beat Canada 3-0 in the other group game played simultaneously.
The Super Falcons will play the winners of Group D – it looks likely to be England – in the first knockout round of the World Cup.