Falcons start World Cup campaign with barren draw as Abiodun sees red

The Nigerian Female team, the Super Falcons started its 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup campaign with a scoreless draw with Canada on Friday at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, otherwise known as AAMI Park.

It was a match full of heart nerve moments for both teams as the Nigerians fought gallantly to hold the Olympic champions to a draw with goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie rising to be a hero.

The Canadians, , who are rank 7th in the world, were on the offensive in the first half as the 40th-ranked Nigerians had to relied on counter-attacks to hold them at bay.

But it was Nigeria who had the first real scoring chance, when in the 23rd minute, Canadian goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan was forced to make a diving save off a low Ifeoma Onumonu shot as the Canadians were caught napping.

Again, the Super got the Canadian defence in disarray when Sheridan slipped trying to clear a ball as Centre back Vanessa Gilles had to go for a desperate backheel and fullback Ashley Lawrence had to clear the ball with the goal wide open to stop the Nigerians from scoring.

In the early minutes of the second-half an appeal for a penalty in the 47th minute by the Canadians when captain Christine Sinclair appeared to be brought down Francisca Ordega in the box. The Finnish referee, Lina Lehtovaara initially ignored the appeal but yielded after a VAR review.

The penalty kick taken by Sinclair was saved by Chiamaka Nnadozie, in goal for the Falcons, with a superb one-handed parry to an onrushing Sinclair, who wasted the second chance at goal for Nnadozie to do a fist pump celebration.

Evelyne Viens came close to scoring a goal for Canada in the last part of the second half as her close-range shot was saved by Nnadozie.

Canadian goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan was forced in the 80th minute to make a spectacular save but the shot was later ruled offside.

However, the Falcons suffered a big loss during the eight minutes extra time when midfielder Deborah Abiodun was given a red card, after video review, for a nasty studs-up tackle on Ashley Lawrence.

The Falcons next match is against co-host Australia in Melbourne on July 26. It will play debutants, Ireland on July 31 in Sydney.

The falcons are now joint second in Group B with Canada behind Australia who beat Ireland 1-0 in the Group opening match on Thursday.

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