Nigeria v Canada: Women’s World Cup 2023 Group B – live | Women’s World Cup 2023

Key events

47 mins: Hmmmm … VAR time, and we see on the replay that Sinclair basically hopped to the ground with Ordega nearby. But there was a little bit of contact, and our referee goes over to watch. Indeed, from another angle, it looks like Ordega got her foot, and even though Sinclair’s reaction was completely unnatural, it’s probably a penalty.

Credit Lacasse with some good work on the flank to set that up.

And indeed … penalty!

Kurt Perleberg offers me seven possible answers to the question of the US women’s chances of winning it once again. I’ll say maybe.

Rob Hunt: “Is Melbourne Rectangular Stadium mathematically related to Madison Square Garden?” Well, it’s more accurately named.

Canadian sub: Deanne Rose is out of midfield; Cloe Lacasse is in.

Kickoff.

From the inbox …

Murray Henman: “I agree with your assessment and your reasoning that Canada could lose this game (however unlikely). But New Zealand has no players in the Guardian’s top 100 footballers and I’d have said it was very unlikely that they could beat Norway – yet they managed a great win last night. Such is the joy of World Cups.”

And Norway has a few players in the top 20.

Peter Oh: “This ref sure does a lot of womansplaining.”

That would be Lina Lehtovaara of Finland.

Mary Waltz: “Greetings from scorching hot California. Woke up at 2 AM this morning to watch the best striker in the world play in front of her country in Australia only to find out she was out on injury. No matter, a tense competitive match versus the Irish side was a joy to watch. I feel this year’s cup will be a banger, the Woman’s game is different but just as exciting as the men’s cup. I don’t think any of the favorites are guaranteed a spot in the semi’s, upsets will be the story this year.”

This is indeed a Cup rife with potential surprises. The growth in the women’s game is making this a lot of fun.

Half-time: Canada 0-0 Nigeria

After the first 15 minutes saw Canada banging into a green wall, Nigeria has shown some attacking intent and come closer to scoring than the heavily favored Olympic champions. Not the best soccer so far, but the drama is only increasing.

OK – caffeine break, and then I’ll check the inbox.

45 min +1: Nnadozie barely manages to punch the ball from Sinclair on a Canadian corner. We’ll do it again, and this one deflects out to the far wing. Canada maintains possession with a throw-in for what might be the last action of the half.

45 mins: Abiodun, less than half the age of Sinclair, treats her elder unkindly, catching her with the studs of her boot. Ouch.

Two minutes of stoppage time.

43 min: Ucheibe makes a series of strong defensive plays along the center of the field, leaving Canada visibly frustrated. The Olympic champions have created nothing of note.

As I say that, Leon manages to twist her body enough to send in a cross that forces Nnadozie to collect the ball under heavy pressure.

40 mins: Payne is having a sensational first half. She forces Canadian defenders into some discomfort with a few deft touches, and she wins another corner for Nigeria.

38 mins: A spinning ball takes a strange bounce in the Nigerian box, and Leon does her best to win a corner. She’s a bit unlucky, though, and her cross attempt bounces back off a defender into her own body, and then it trickles out of play for a goal kick.

36 mins: CHANCE! Actually a couple of chances in short order, as a nice through ball gets into the Canadian box. Sheridan comes out to play with her feet and completely whiffs. There’s no good angle for a shot, but the ball goes into the center of the box, where Lawrence is forced to clear with Ordega racing straight at her. She pokes the ball away and takes the hard contact, earning a free kick and some relief.

This has been all Nigeria for the last … 10 minutes? Fifteen? A while.

34 mins: I don’t want to say Canada was expecting a short corner, but the two players lined up at the hash mark as if they’re starting a race make me suspect that they were. It’s still a dangerous corner that makes Sheridan fight the sun to punch it away. The ball bounds out to Abiodun, whose long-range shot is high.

32 mins: Onumonu has an extended spell with the ball, but her cross is blocked. A follow-up attempt from Nigeria is also blocked, and it’s a corner. That’s not cleared well, and Ordega is able to cross and win another corner.

29 mins: Canadian coach Bev Priestman sees something out on the field and abruptly turns to the bench to watch something on a monitor. Either they’re getting some intriguing intel or the next season of What We Do in the Shadows has been released.

28 mins: Onumonu gets half a step on her defender, but they end up getting tangled, and a foul is called against the Nigerian attacker.

Canada goes the other way and gets a half-chance, a cross that Huitema heads wide.

26 mins: A stone-footed Canadian pass caroms off Leon, who had little hope of controlling it. This is unconvincing stuff from the Olympic champions.

25 mins: I’m starting to like the Nigerian attack when it exists. They’re showing a bit more creativity and flair than the Canadians have thus far.

22 mins: Oshoala goes up against Buchanan in a matchup of European stars. The ball ends up going more centrally to Payne, who laces a 25-yard shot that dips near the ground and forces Sheridan to make an uncomfortable punch on the ball, conceding a corner.

My apologies for Peter Oh for the mistake in his name earlier. That has since been fixed.

21 mins: Nigeria gets a couple of throw-ins deep in the Canadian third, but a clever sequence of passes is a bit too clever, and possession is lost.

19 mins: Nnadozie goes down in a little bit of pain after facing an aerial challenge in her own box, but the Nigerian keeper is OK.

Her counterpart, Kailen Sheridan, finally gets a touch on the ball, easily clearing with her feet. (Well, one of her feet. I think it was her right.)

18 mins: Alozie slides through Huitema’s legs and is mysteriously not booked.

Speaking of bookings, Peter Oh writes: “Is the presence of Booking dot com among the sideline advertisements a creative way to sponsor yellow and red cards?”

14 mins: A nice diagonal ball splits through a couple of Nigerian defenders to Ashley Lawrence, and Nigeria clears for a corner. That apparently leads to an attempt that was blocked, but a glitch in the feed kept us from seeing it.

As Nigeria goes the other way, Quinn slides toward Oshoala, and the Canadian midfielder’s boot glances off the top of the ball into the Nigerian attacker’s leg. She’s down in a bit of pain. The referee had a chat with Quinn but let them off with a warning.

13 mins: Nigeria is keeping its shape, by which I mean there’s an amorphous blob of light green massed between 15 and 40 yards from the Nigerian goal through which no ball can pass.

I see a lot of regular readers in my inbox – thanks for tuning in with me tonight.

11 mins: Ucheibe gets a handful of Sinclair’s shirt, which is impressive but illegal, and it’s a free kick for Canada. It’s repelled rather easily, but we’ve seen nothing but silly fouls from Nigeria thus far.

9 mins: CHANCE for Christine Sinclair to score in her sixth (6th!) World Cup, but despite having a decent amount of space, she releases a shot well off target.

8 mins: Some sloppy defending near the top of the Nigerian box, but a strong tackle and a snap back to attention handle the problem.

Possession is one way so far.

5 mins: Ordega and Leon collide unnecessarily in the Nigerian box with the ball heading out. Not sure what possessed Ordega to make a physical challenge in that spot, but she gets by with it.

2 mins: This field looks small, but judging from the hashmarks showing 10 yards from the corner, it may just be a trick of the camera.

Canadian coach Bev Priestman is wearing a sharp suit. She’s younger than one of her players, Christine Sinclair.

Fox is showing a third variant of Nigeria’s lineup, with Payne as an attacking mid. We’ll find out soon enough.

We’ve also been told that Jessie Fleming, one of The Guardian’s top 100 players in the world, is on the bench with “a knock.”

Kickoff!

It’s 53 degrees at kickoff. (Well, the march out to kickoff. I assume it won’t change that much.)

That’s Fahrenheit. Converted to Celsius, that’s light-jacket weather. Should be very pleasant for the players.

Canada lineup

GK: Kailen Sheridan

D: Kadeisha Buchanan, Jayde Riviere, Ashley Lawrence, Vanessa Gilles

M: Quinn, Deanne Rose, Julia Grosso, Jordyn Huitema, Christine Sinclair

F: Adriana Leon

(Quinn uses a single name.)

ESPN’s lineup shows this as a 4-4-1-1, with Sinclair behind Leon up front.

Nigeria lineup

GK: Chiamaka Nnadozie

D: Ashleigh Plumptre, Osinachi Ohale, Blessing Demehin, Michelle Alozie

M: Ifeoma Onumonu, Toni Payne, Christy Ucheibe, Deborah Abiodun, Francisca Ordega

F: Asisat Oshoala

That’s how FIFA’s site sees it. ESPN’s site sees it as a 4-2-3-1 with Ordega and Ucheibe behind Oshoala in the center, with Onumonu as the actual forward.

In case you’re just joining us, the news from Day 1 of the Women’s World Cup was as follows …

1. Australia announced that Sam Kerr, arguably the best player in the world in the last 10 years, will miss two games with a calf injury. Australia still managed to take care of business against an Ireland team that gave a decent account of itself but conceded one unfortunate penalty in a 1-0 loss.

2. New Zealand, whose celebrations as co-host were marred by a horrific mass shooting in Auckland, won a World Cup game for the first time, deservedly defeating traditional power Norway 1-0.

When I covered the 2011 Women’s World Cup, I saw New Zealand take its first-ever World Cup point, rallying with two late goals to draw Mexico. An older gentleman who covered the New Zealand team told me it was the happiest day of his life. I normally don’t care for such fandom in the press tribune, but it was hard to begrudge him. I hope he’s still around and enjoyed this one immensely.

Back to our game – Nigeria played New Zealand in April. The African side won 3-0.

Yes, I do realize I’m casting a hex on this game, and it will now be a 6-0 Canadian blowout. But I stand by it – this is far from a sure win for the Olympic champions.

Preamble

No, women’s soccer hasn’t hit such astounding parity that any team can beat any other team. The USA will beat Vietnam tomorrow by a considerable margin.

But as European leagues have grown like the number of Twitter alternatives in recent years (if you want to reach me, please email rather than Tweeting), players from around the planet are getting chances to showcase and develop their skills.

Tonight, we’ll see one of the most impressive – Nigeria’s Asihat Oshoala, No 38 in The Guardian’s ranking of the world’s top female footballers. That places her higher than all but six US players, and two of those six are injured. That’s higher than any Canadian player.

That’s not based on racking up big numbers against overmatched national teams in Africa. That’s based on being one of the key players on the best team in women’s soccer in the past three years – Barcelona, which has reached the last three Champions League finals and won two of them. In the 2022-23 campaign, she led the team with an average of 0.95 goals every 90 minutes.

(To give a dissenting view: A commenter on our “bold predictions” piece took me to task for saying some players who have played in Europe’s top leagues might be the biggest threat to the US women’s threepeat quest. I thought that was a rather vague prediction on my part – even neighboring Canada has players in Europe, as does the US itself – but perhaps the point is that I’m overvaluing “Europe,” even as applied to Nigeria. Fair enough.)

Yes, if a single player could make all the difference, we would be hailing the World Cup career of George Weah or George Best. But this Nigerian team has talent elsewhere as well. Sevilla player Toni Payne, set to face off tonight against former Duke teammate Quinn (I promise that’ll be the only mention of my alma mater tonight), was a distinguished player on US youth national teams before declaring her allegiance for her parents’ homeland. Francisca Ordega showed some attacking flair in her time with the Washington Spirit before moving elsewhere, landing for now at CSKA Moscow. Ifeoma Onumonu scored 33 goals in her college career at California – the only Golden Bear to score more in this century is someone named Alex Morgan – before going into the NWSL. Goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie locked down the starting job at Paris FC as a teenager in 2020.

Imagine what they could do if they didn’t have problems getting their paychecks.

This is not a game the Olympic champions can take lightly.

Good evening to North America, and good day to those in the countries hosting things this time around.

I have to tell you a secret. It might shock you.

Ready?

Promise?

OK.

Canada could lose this game.

I’ll explain why momentarily …

Beau will be here shortly. In the meantime, have a look at our World Cup team guides for Nigeria and Canada ahead of their Group B showdown in Melbourne.