Can Nigeria Defeat Canada in April?
With Nigeria's Super Falcons having a less than impressive record in friendlies since the coronation of American Randy Waldrum as Head Coach, they have the opportunity to plug that gap in April's international football window for women.
But it will be a double header against a very formidable opponent in current Olympics gold medallists Canada. The first game will be played at B.C. Place in Vancouver on April 8 and the second will go on April 11 at Starlight Stadium in Langford, B.C.
So far, Waldrum’s Falcons have only returned an underwhelming 43% win ratio in friendly matches since he took over from Dennerby. In 7 friendly games against countries, Nigeria returned three wins, three losses and 1 draw. Crucially, they are yet to win against teams higher than them in the Fifa rankings.
Friendly matches against USA (1st in the world), and Portugal (29th in Fifa rankings) failed to yield victories for Nigeria with them slumping to defeats against lower placed Jamaica and South Africa (51 and 56 positions in the Fifa rankings respectively).
Hence it is not expected to get better for 41 placed Nigeria as they lock horns with Canada who are currently placed 6th in the Fifa rankings.
But rankings can at times be deceptive as the Super Falcons will be expected to put up a spirited and flamboyant display against a side they know all too well.
In recent history, Nigeria and Canada have met twice in senior level and under-20 football. The senior level 2019 friendly ended 2:1 to Canada while a brace from Chinaza Uchendu and a Joy Bokiri stunner powered Nigeria to Under-20 world cup group stage 3:1 victory in 2016.
Going back, Nkwocha propelled Nigeria to a 1:0 victory against Canada at the 2011 women's world cup group stages. If you then elect to go back much further, at the 1995 women's world cup, Nigeria and Canada shared the spoils in a 3:3 group stage draw. Nwadike, Avre and Okoroafor got Nigeria's 3 goals.
So, there is something of a rich history of encounters between these 2 countries. Goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe, who was on the bench for Canada in the 2019 friendly against Nigeria, is well aware of the threat posed by her Nigerian counterparts.
"For me, playing Nigeria, we haven't played them a lot, but we know they're an unbelievable team and it'll be a great experience for us," said the goalkeeper who solidly backstopped Canada to the gold medal at last year's Olympics.
In Nnadozie and Oluehi we also have world class goalkeepers of our own. They as well as the entire Super Falcons team should relish the opportunity to avenge their 2019 loss to the same opposition.
It promises to be a fascinating encounter, one that will serve as a barometer of how well the Falcons are progressing under Waldrum whose stewardship saw them successfully navigate a brutal Wafcon qualifying campaign against heavyweights Ghana and Ivory Coast.
Both teams will use these friendly encounters as tune up games for their respective continental tournaments coming up in the summer.
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