BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - 2023/07/27: Asisat Oshoala of Nigeria celebrates with her teammate after the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 Group match between Australia and Nigeria at Brisbane Stadium. Nigeria beat Australia 3-2. (Photo by George Hitchens/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Superb Super Falcons leave Matildas World Cup dreams hanging by a thread

It was a dark day for the Matildas on Day Eight of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. What had been a positive tournament, for the most part, turned into a nightmare as Tony Gustavsson’s charges wilted under the pressure in front of their home fans and succumbed to a superb Super Falcons side 3-2 at Brisbane Stadium last night.

Catch up with what happened on Day Seven here:

The 3-2 result, in front of a near 50,000-strong crowd, leaves the host nation's hopes of qualifying for the knockout stage hanging by a thread and contingent on defeating Tokyo 2020 Olympic gold medallists Canada this Monday night in Melbourne.

The Matildas squandered chance after chance, either failing to get the final pass right or unable to find the composure when it mattered the most. The stats don’t lie; the Super Falcons hit over half of their shots on target. The Matildas only hit eight of their 28 on target. Nowhere near good enough efficiency.

In attack and defence, the right wing was also a problem for Australia. Hayley Raso and Ellie Carpenter just could not get any fluency to their play, and quite frankly, Carpenter was a liability in defence. Raso tried but lacked any real spark or creativity in her play.

The biggest issue for the Matildas was the defence. Which was a surprise to most, after a run of several shutouts. The aforementioned Carpenter was exploited down the right-hand side as her direct opponent, Uchenna Kanu, continually got in behind her. Centrebacks Alanna Kennedy and Claire Hunt looked all at sea and goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold could and perhaps should have done better with the goals too.

The substitutions must be questioned too. It is overkill to expect Tony Gustavsson to step down after one bad result, as some media outlets have suggested, but it is fair to question what he was thinking when he brought on Claire Polkinghorne rather than Alex Chidiac. Particularly given the impact the latter had when she came off the bench far too late in proceedings.

But it wasn’t just about how poor Australia was. It was also about how great Nigeria was. The Super Falcons played their own brand of football. They didn’t completely shut up shop like the Irish did and were threatening in transition from the very beginning.

Their attack was sensational and made what had been previously, a very well-drilled Australian defence look below par. They looked to play through Kanu on the left-hand side, targeting Ellie Carpenter’s attacking instincts as a weakness and it paid dividends. American-born Nigeria gaffer Randy Waldrum might have given other nations the blueprint for how to defeat the Matildas.

Waldrum deserves plenty of credit for this victory. In stark contrast to the Matildas, his substitutions were spot on and when Asisat Oshoala came on, she made an immediate impact, playing a key role in the second goal for Nigeria and helping herself to a goal less than ten minutes later to completely take the sting out of the game.

The result leaves Nigeria sitting at the top of group B on four points with a fixture against the winless Republic of Ireland to come. Australia face a must-win clash with Canada, where only a win will do or the co-hosts will face the ignominy of being dumped out before the knockout stages even begin.

PLAYER OF THE MATCH: Uchenna Kanu (NGR). Kanu was a constant problem down the left for the Matildas and scored the goal right on the half-time whistle to boost her side's belief that they could win the fixture. She also did a superb job of exposing Ellie Carpenter’s defensive deficiencies - which is no mean feat.

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