The Super Falcons of Nigeria on Monday, July 17 lost 1-0 to France in their last game of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, a result which means that Nigeria’s progress to the round of 16 is out of their hands.
Nigeria will have to wait for the outcome of other group games to know if they will progress from the group stage for only the second time in history and the first time in two decades.
It is with this factor that their 2019 World Cup campaign will be judged and if it goes against their favour and crash out in the group stage, it will negate the improvements they showed at this tournament.
It was just over a year ago when the Super Falcons suffered a crushing 8-0 defeat to France in a friendly game, but Monday night was different.
The Super Falcons troubled the French early on in the game, but that was the only time they offered an offensive threat.
With the aim of getting a draw which would have been enough to get them through to the next round, the Super Falcons sat back and soaked in the pressure.
The plan was to hit on the counter, but the forward trio of Asisat Oshoala, Desire Oparanozie and Francisca Ordega could not muster any individual moment to steal the game. Oshoala was the biggest culprit, failing to beat her marker on a couple of occasions despite being in possession in some good positions.
With the forward trio unable to create anything on their own, the pressure was on the midfield and defence.
All grit and no guile, the midfield trio of Halimatu Ayinde, Rita Chikwelu and Ngozi Okobi chased the ball all through the game and failed to hold on to possession and create anything.
Although talented, the trio seemed very overwhelmed with the occasion, misplacing passes and giving the ball away at an alarming rate.
It was the defence led by veteran defender Onome Ebi that impressed the most during the game, keeping it tight and limiting the French to just a few shots on target despite their huge dominance.
It took a controversial penalty which was taken twice for the French to get their goal.
It’s out of the hands of the Super Falcons who now have to wait for the results from other groups to know if they will progress to the next round.
It will seem unfair to Thomas Dennerby's team if they exit this World Cup at the group stage after obvious improvement but they will look back at that 3-0 loss to Norway in their first game in regrets.
The Super Falcons had no business losing that game, nonetheless by three goals but their naivety on the big stage was on display again and it might have hurt their chances of a place in the second round.