2015 WWC – Group D: Surprising Start for the Swedes

12 Jun

599x337xfalcons-sweden.jpg.pagespeed.ic.ISoKbRmi5uGroup D began with a surprising start when the Swedes were held to a draw by the Super Falcons of Nigeria. As teams in the “Group of D(eath)”, we expected this to be a strong match but a 3-3 tie was not in my prediction book!

Sweden’s coach Pia Sundhage had commented early on that they expected a tough match due to the fact that the Nigerian team was a bit of a mystery. But Nigeria had some people reporting with shaking heads, especially Jeff Kassouf of NBC soccer and Equalizersoccer.com who has a very active presence on Twitter. He reported on a strange press conference with Coach Edwin Okon and Evelyn Nwakbouku. He said that both Okon and Nwakbouku insisted that they had no knowledge about Sweden. Whether or not this was a response to Pia Sundhage’s remark is hard to tell.

Coach Okon also seemed to be rather dismissive of Asisat Oshoala and her importance to the team. While one can appreciate not favoring one player over another, it seems odd to dismiss the winner of the Adidas Golden Ball and the Golden Boot from the Women’s U-20 World Cup as well as the African Women’s Footballer of the Year award. (And those are only three of the awards she’s won in the last year.)

What seems clear to me is that both teams need to do better about scouting. Nigeria’s claim to have no knowledge of Sweden would come back to haunt them after two set pieces in the first half left them trailing by two goals at the half. Meanwhile Sweden should have foreseen the speed and tenacity of the Nigerians who had quite a few veterans from the team that lost to Germany in the U-20 final.

Be that as it may, this match was vigorous from end to end. Sweden’s half time position of being two goals up could be misleading, as they were not so much the stronger team but the Nigerians could not handle the Swedish set pieces. Neither defense was very strong and Nigeria’s own set pieces were not very effective. Both teams had forwards doing a lot of running into the opposing areas but often for naught.

Nigeria’s speed was very impressive. As we expected, despite Coach Okon’s dismissal, Oshoala spent the first half just running at the defense. Her pace is just beautiful to watch.

But it was the set pieces that were to be Nigeria’s nightmare for the first half.  The first goal was considered an own goal on #9 Oparanozie when the ball deflected off her chest into the goal. By the half hour mark, another corner kick was not effectively cleared and was slotted in by Fischer who was conveniently unmarked even though she was hanging around the goal line.

1297710072515_ORIGINALThe second half found the Nigerians disciplined and focused. Two goals in two minutes was the result. To be fair, more goals could have come but the Super Falcons had a hard time staying onside. When they learn to time their runs better and find space, they will be even more of a force to be reckoned with. (USA, take note!)

Nigeria’s first goal was by Okobi who, like American Christen Press later that evening, scored on her World Cup debut and the second was from Oshoala who had the speed and strength to fight off Fischer for the ball for the second goal in as many minutes. There was some talk that Fischer was fouled but that would be a weak call, in my opinion.

soc_g_nigeria11_800x450 (1)asisat-oshoala-of-nigeria_153inwa1wzkewz9myxpfycj75In the last third of the match, Sweden was clearly suffering. While they managed a third goal from a “Super Sub”, Sembrant, at the hour mark, the physical discomfort was obvious. Players were continually stretching and cramping up. The commentators did not think the heat was an issue because Winnipeg was overcast throughout the match. Meanwhile, the Nigerians didn’t seem too worse for wear until the very end. And it showed with the tying goal coming at the death by Ordega.

Womens-World-Cup-Group-D-USWNTPia’s face says it all.

No one should count Sweden out by any stretch. A rough first match can be a wake up call for a strong side. The US will need to be mindful that Swedish pride may be hurt and the Swedes will not be guilty of underestimating anyone. Meanwhile the Australians will need to contend with a Nigerian side boosted by this result. Nigeria has played a role in every women’s world cup but this current team is stronger and as Cat Whitehill said while commentating, they are smarter on the ball. Things are sure to get interesting in Group D.

Here are some highlights for you:

Line ups

For Sweden:

LIndahl, Fischer, Berglund (Ilestedt, 73) Rubensson, Nilsson , Dahlkvist (Sembrant,) Sjogran, Seger, Schelin, Jacobsson and Asiliani (Schough, 46)

For Nigeria:

Dede, Ohale, Chukwunonye, Ebere, Ebi, Oshoala, Nwabuoku, Ayinde, Okobi, Oparanozie and Ordega

Attendance: 31, 148


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