BRISBANE–Nigeria produced the first major shock of the Fifa Women’s World Cup as it stunned Australia 3-2 on Thursday to leave the co-host’s tournament hopes on thin ice and home fans reeling.
Asisat Oshoala volleyed into an open goal in the 72nd minute to seal a deserved win for the Africans after Uchenna Kanu canceled out Emily van Egmond’s opener on the cusp of halftime and Osinachi Ohale nudged Nigeria ahead after the break.
Australia cut the deficit to one goal when Alanna Kennedy nodded home a header in the 10th minute of stoppage time but Nigeria rode out the final seconds to claim one of the finest wins in their history at the global showpiece.
The victory in front of a huge crowd at Lang Park put Nigeria top of Group B level with Canada on four points but ahead on goals scored. The 11-time African champions play eliminated Ireland in their last group match on Monday.
Nigeria coach Randy Waldrum said his players were in party mode in their changing room at Lang Park.
“I think they’re still singing and dancing right now,” the American told reporters.
“I can’t get in there and get a word in edge-wise.
“So many people didn’t believe in me, didn’t believe in the team. The one thing we’ve done is talk about believing in one another.”
The Matildas must beat Olympic champions Canada, held to a 0-0 draw by Nigeria in their opener, to be assured of making the last 16 at a tournament where they fancied themselves among the major title threats.
Lacking talismanic striker Sam Kerr and attacker Mary Fowler through injury, Australia’s makeshift forward line peppered the Nigeria goal but saw a slew of chances fly wide and over the bar in both halves.
Defensive lapses ultimately cost the hosts but coach Tony Gustavsson was reluctant to find fault.
“If the performance was poor I’d say it was, but the performance wasn’t poor,” said the Swede.
“You look at the stats, we should walk off the field as winners of this game.”
Van Egmond, brought into the starting 11 in place of Fowler, put Australia in front in the first minute of first half stoppage time with a crisp finish from a Caitlin Foord cross.
Australia’s joy was fleeting, though, with midfielder Rasheedat Ajibade setting up Nigeria’s equalizer with a deflected shot that landed at the feet of Kanu who scored from close-range seconds before the interval.
Waldrum had his main strike threat Oshoala start on the bench in a selection surprise but two minutes after she came on, Nigeria had the lead.
Back from suspension, Ajibade made the difference again as she headed the ball toward the far post after a corner, allowing Ohale to force the ball over the line in the 65th minute.
Under pressure, Australia’s defense broke down seven minutes later as a mix-up between goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold and Kennedy allowed Oshoala to pounce.
Arnold came off her line and Oshoala swerved past her on the right to sneak in the volley from a tight angle.
Australia pushed hard in search of goals, and Kennedy popped in her late header at the far post but Nigeria held on for a huge boost of confidence before it faces Ireland.
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