In a thrilling and historic match at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Nigeria achieved a remarkable comeback victory against co-hosts Australia, becoming the first African nation to win a match at the prestigious tournament. The game took place at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, leaving The Matildas facing a first-round exit.
Australia, still missing the influential Sam Kerr due to injury, dominated much of the first half, and it looked like they had made a decisive breakthrough in stoppage time when Emily van Egmond scored the opening goal. This marked Van Egmond’s first goal at the tournament in an impressive 12 years since she last found the net against Equatorial Guinea on July 3, 2011. However, Australia’s lead was short-lived as Uchenna Kanu equalized for Nigeria just before halftime.
Nigeria’s coach, Randy Waldrum, raised eyebrows by leaving out FC Barcelona forward Asisat Oshoala at the start of the match. Waldrum explained that he wanted to manage Oshoala’s playing time after she sustained an injury at the end of the club season, during which she helped her team secure victory in the UEFA Women’s Champions League. However, Waldrum’s decision to introduce Oshoala in the 65th minute turned out to be a game-changing move.
With her first touch of the ball, Oshoala made an instant impact, rising at the back post to head the ball across goal to defender Osinachi Ohale, who managed to scramble it over the line. Five minutes later, Oshoala seized upon a defensive mix-up between Alanna Kennedy and goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold, rounding Arnold to score the match-winning goal.
The stadium erupted in jubilant scenes as Oshoala celebrated her momentous achievement. She whipped off her shirt to reveal her Nike sports bra, reminiscent of Chloe Kelly’s iconic celebration for England during the UEFA Women’s Euro last summer at Wembley Stadium. Oshoala’s goal also made her the first African player to score at three FIFA Women’s World Cup tournaments, having previously found the net at the 2015 and 2019 editions.
Despite a late header by Alanna Kennedy that reduced the deficit to 2-3 in the ninth minute of stoppage time, it was not enough for The Matildas, who now sit in third place in Group B behind Canada. Canada also secured a comeback victory against the Republic of Ireland on the same day.
For the host nation, the result means they must secure a win against Olympic champions Canada in their final group stage match in Melbourne to ensure qualification for the knockout stages. The availability of star striker Sam Kerr, who missed the opening match due to a calf injury, remains uncertain. Coach Tony Gustavsson stated that Kerr will be reassessed in the coming days, while Manchester City’s Mary Fowler should be available for the next game after sitting out today’s match due to concussion protocols.
For Nigeria, one of the few teams to have qualified for every FIFA Women’s World Cup tournament, this victory puts them in a promising position to progress to the Round of 16. Having reached the knockout stages as one of the four best third-placed teams in 2019, they now only need to avoid defeat against the already-eliminated Republic of Ireland in their final group match. Nigerian fans are filled with hope and excitement as their team continues to make history at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.