The O’s upset Sweden in pulsating 3 all thriller
Okobi, Oshoala and Ordega were on the score sheet as the Super Falcons rallied from two goals down to earn a deserved 3-3 draw against the Damlandslaget.
Having never won Sweden in three tries (two losses and one draw), the Nigerian team approached the game with a 4-3-3 line up with Ebi and Ohale marshalling the defence while Nwabuoku slotted right into midfield freeing up spaces for Okobi and Ayinde down the flanks. Ordega played just behind the front two of Oshoala and Oparanozie; with these three regularly interchanging.
With game underway, it didn’t take long before the Falcons tested Lindahl’s resolve between the sticks. Threats from Oshoala, Okobi and Ebere early on, failed to put the Falcons ahead as the Swedish backline toiled to cope with the Falcons waves of attack.
However, all that changed in the 20th minute when Oparanozie stirred in Berglund’s header from a resulting corner into the back of her own net. This put the Swede’s one goal up; against the run of play. Still, the Falcons swarmed forward with Oparanozie looking to write off her earlier blip but to no avail.
Eleven minutes later, yet another goal-mouth scramble from a corner kick saw the Swede’s take a 2-0 lead with a Nilla Fischer tap in after the Falcons failed to clear their lines. The bubble at the time had burst and all the industry showed by the Falcons were upturned by two set-piece goals.
The second half started in similar fashion to the first as the Falcons attacked from the go. The efforts paid dividends five minutes in as Ngozi Okobi turned in Nigeria’s first goal after collecting a pass from Oparanozie.
In quick succession, the second goal came in the 53rd minute.
This time it was the astute Oshoala who fended off the Sweden defence after a brilliant pass from Okobi. This sent the spectators at the Winnipeg Stadium into a wild frenzy.
The Swedes having been pegged back, resorted to old ways; taking advantage of Nigeria’s caught out defence. Stringing intricate passes together saw them restore the lead for the third time after a sublime team goal converted by substitute, Linda Sembrant.
Nonetheless, the Falcons pressed on with a much needed equalizer; one of such coming with less than 20 minutes to go. A well-weighted pass from Oparanozie went agonizingly wide as Oshoala missed at close range and Okobi was unable to control the resulting rebound.
With three minutes to go, Okobi the eventual man-of-match, played a superb through pass to Ordega who cemented her name in the history books with a well deserved equalizer which sent the team in wild celebration.
At full time, the four O’s inclusive of Okobi, Oshoala, Ordega and not leaving out Oparanozie- albeit an own goal (which she unarguably made up for)- were on the score sheet to earn Falcons a coveted point and put them in a better place psychologically and in the group standings.
Edwin Okon bemoaned his sides’ defensive frailties but assured his team would bounce back from the shambles at the back.
”It is unfortunate that we conceded those cheap goals but I think we’ll be going back to our drawing board to work on it”.
Speaking on Nigeria’s recent tag as a ”threat” to the top teams, Edwin emphasized that no team is pushover.
”We don’t underrate any team since It’s 11 v 11, it is the grass that will decide. We don’t care whomever we meet”.
For Okobi, words couldn’t describe how she felt as she played her most important game for the Falcons
”I’m so very excited because this is my very first outing in the Senior World cup. I’m so very very happy and I know more (is) yet to come”.
Indeed more is yet to come from the reigning African Champions as they take on the Matilda’s of Australia in a MUST WIN encounter on the 12th of June in Winnipeg.
‘Janine is a TV/Radio Sports Presenter/Correspondent and Web reporter for SPORTON Nigeria. She also covers Africa Women’s football for various portals including the NFF (Nigeria Football Federation) and The Women’s Game