Australia sink Nigeria in Group D to revive knockout stage hopes

Australia downed Nigeria 2-0 in Winnipeg to reignite their World Cup dreams as Group D play continued on Friday afternoon. Kyah Simon scored both goals for the Matildas to ensure that the group will remain alive until the final day.

The teams had very different starts to this tournament. Nigeria recovered to draw Sweden 3-3 in one of the best games of the tournament so far while the Aussies tired out against a sub-par USA side, losing 3-1.

"It was a tough game; a tough battle out there in the heat," Australia coach Allen Stajcic told FIFA’s official website. "Both sides had plenty of good attacks and today we were the more clinical side. That’s what we weren’t the other day. A couple key moments won us the match. We had quite good control of the game. "

On Friday, neither side managed to get an early grip as both flooded midfield with numbers and concentrated on knocking down any attempted through passes. Australia’s Samantha Kerr was finding room wide on the right, but Nigeria was dealing with her crosses before they could produce any real openings in the first quarter-hour.

Evelyn Nwabuoku managed Nigeria’s first shot in the 20th minute but the drive from outside the box posed no problems for Lydia Williams, the Australian keeper who had missed the opener against the USA due to injury. She was easily down behind the shot.           

The opening goal came in the 29th minute thanks to a marvelous run by Lisa De Vanna, who powered down the inside left channel past two defenders, then sent in Simon deep on the left to clip the ball past Precious Dede in the Nigeria net. The goal was the result of smart, precision counter-attacking by the Australians.          

It might have been — perhaps should have been — two for the Aussies five minutes later when Simon and De Vanna again had space to attack in the center of the box, but they took too much time on the ball and the open look vanished before it could be finished. Nigeria’s best chance came three minutes before the interval when Asisat Oshoala helped to send Francisca Ordega in on the left, but Ordega’s shot was blocked before it could trouble Williams.

The second half saw more aggression from Nigeria — but more calamitous goalkeeping as well. Samantha Kerr floated up a looping ball over the back line that Dede failed to come and collect, and Simon simply tucked the ball between her legs for her second of the night.

Dede did preserve the scoreline though, stopping a rocket from De Vanna with ten to play and perhaps restoring some of her tattered confidence. In the end, though, Nigeria could not come to grips with the game, and rarely ruffled Williams.

There was an ugly moment in the game as well when Ugo Njoku appeared to deliberately elbow Kerr, and FIFA will be surely looking at the tape. The incident marred what had otherwise been a straightforward affair.

We have to get back out and score goals. We must qualify," Nigeria coach Edwin Okon told FIFA after the loss. "Nigeria must qualify to the next round. So we must get back to the form we had against Sweden.

Group play closes out on Tuesday for these teams as Nigeria take on the USA in Vancouver while the Aussies play Sweden in Edmonton.