BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Few would have condemned Nigeria coach Randy Waldrum for bringing in defensive reinforcements with the score tied 1-1 in the second half against Women’s World Cup co-host Australia.
Waldrum, however, bet everything on Thursday. He introduced midfielder Rasheedat Ajibade and striker Asisat Oshoala to try to pull off an unexpected victory. They are both good players individually, but they work better together.
Oshoala’s introduction in the 63rd minute pushed Nigeria to a 3-1 lead inside of nine minutes by reuniting a playmaking tandem that had not yet played together in this tournament. They managed to win 3-2 by holding on.
Ajibade and Oshoala “are needed on the team, and I think they showed that tonight,” said Uchenna Kanu, who scored Nigeria’s first goal in the last seconds of the first half. “Seeing Asisat come on and do what she does was really cool.”
With three goals, Nigeria tied for their best World Cup scoring performance ever.
Nigeria, which had worries about the team’s preparations before the World Cup, is unbeaten against two Top 10 teams and shares the Group B lead with Olympic winner Canada by a score of four.
Oshoala, a forward for Barcelona, started in the opening 0-0 draw against Canada last week but struggled with a hamstring issue afterward. Ajibade, an Atletico Madrid midfielder, was sent off against Canada due to a red card she received in the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations semifinal.
So, in a brilliant move of tactical roster management, Waldrum chose to bench Oshoala against Australia and recall Ajibade to offer the squad guidance in the opening period.
He made sure they were on the field together when it counted.
Oshoala and Ajibade have been close friends since they were young football players.
At the conclusion of the game, Oshoala remarked, “We grew up together at the same grassroots team.” I said, “She’s my sister.”
At FC Robo, Ajibade and Oshoala played together. The two developed chemistry there, and it has carried over to soccer’s grandest stage.
Communication and mutual understanding are key, according to Ajibade.We must practice it in competition because we practice it in practice.
Waldrum noted that the team as a whole had synergy in addition to these two.
Waldrum remarked that “the team chemistry has been really strong lately and they’re really fighting for each other.” Who wins the prize or scores the goal doesn’t matter to them. They only fight for one another.
On Monday, Nigeria’s final Group B matchup is against the winless Republic of Ireland. The Super Falcons would move on to the elimination round with a victory or a tie.
Portugal defeated Vietnam 2-0.
Portugal defeated Vietnam, and Telma Encarnacao scored one goal and assisted on another, preventing Vietnam from moving on to the final round.
In the seventh minute, Portugal took the lead after a rapid series of incisive passes through the Vietnamese defense. Encarnacao received a precise cross from Lucia Alves at the top of the six-yard box, who finished it easily.
With a United States win or draw and a Netherlands loss against Vietnam on Tuesday, Portugal still has a chance to get out of the group stage.
Portugal took possession and advanced downfield after Vietnam’s goal kick in the 21st minute. Kika Nazareth, 20, scored the second goal of the game to the left of goalie Tran Thi Kim Thanh after Encarnacao passed the ball to her as she sped past opponents.
Dolores Silva, the team’s captain, and goalkeeper Ines Pereira, both 31 years old, were among the seven starters that Portugal coach Francisco Neto rested following the team’s 1-0 defeat against the Netherlands. Encarnacao and Nazareth both started the victory over Vietnam while both were on the bench in the defeat to the Dutch.
Waikato Stadium, which has a capacity of 18,009, saw about 6,650 spectators. The majority of the spectators were Vietnamese soccer enthusiasts, but the loudest group was the Portuguese group.
Nguyen Thi Bich Thuy was Vietnam’s lone shining star. The right winger appeared dangerous the few times the Golden Star Women Warriors were on the attack, but she was unable to score.