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For Nigeria, Narrow World Cup Exit Is Start of a Journey, Not the End

Chiamaka Nnadozie’s Nigeria lineup had two possibilities hit the crossbar in a scoreless draw, and solely missed out on the Women’s World Cup quarterfinals after dropping a penalty shootout in opposition to England.

By taking the European champions proper to the wire, the Super Falcons proved, as soon as once more, that rankings are much less vital than respect for rival groups beneath the match’s expanded 32-team format.

In the group stage, Nigeria held Olympic champion Canada to a 0-0 draw, upset co-host Australia 3-2 and superior to the knockout stage after a 0-0 draw with Ireland.

A late pink card for England ahead Lauren James for stomping on Nigeria defender Michelle Alozie took the main focus off two tight halves of soccer on Monday evening that would have gone both means.

Referee Melissa Borjas reveals a pink card to England’s Lauren James in the course of the Women’s World Cup spherical of 16 soccer match between England and Nigeria in Brisbane, Australia, Aug. 7, 2023.

Ashleigh Plumptre’s left-foot strike cannoned into the crossbar within the seventeenth minute and her right-foot shot, moments after the ball rebounded, pressured a diving save from England goalkeeper Mary Earps. Uchenna Kanu’s two second-half headers went inside inches.

Had any of these possibilities discovered the again of the web, it is seemingly Nigeria would have gone on to win a knockout match for the primary time in 9 journeys to the Women’s World Cup and England would have adopted the defending champion U.S. crew, No. 2-ranked Germany, Canada and Brazil by way of the exit.

‘It’s not the top for Nigeria,’ Nnadozie, Nigeria’s goalkeeper and inspirational crew chief, mentioned as she left the locker room on the 2023 World Cup for the final time. ‘We return dwelling, relaxation and are available again stronger.’

‘Coming to the World Cup we had so many goals. So unhappy right now, nevertheless it’s not the top,’ she added. ‘We’ve been taking part in robust, robust video games. There’s no straightforward groups. We respect all of them. Right now, we’ve to work tougher and are available again stronger once more.’

Concerns by some critics that the enlargement from 24 to 32 groups would result in blow out scores have eased.

Yes, there have been some large margins, however these weren’t restricted to the eight nations on debut: one was England’s 6-1 win over Asian champion China, a World Cup finalist in 1999, and one other was 2011 champion Japan pounding one other title contender, Spain, 4-0.

Morocco was routed 6-0 by Germany in its debut recreation on the international match however rebounded with wins over South Korea and Colombia to not solely advance to the knockout stage. At the expense of the Germans.

Nigeria was ranked fortieth in June however the gamers and coach Randy Waldrum by no means had any doubts they may combine it with the highest groups on the most important stage for the ladies’s recreation.

Nigeria's players react during a penalty shootout during the Women's World Cup round of 16 soccer match between England and Nigeria in Brisbane, Australia, Aug. 7, 2023. Nigeria’s gamers react throughout a penalty shootout in the course of the Women’s World Cup spherical of 16 soccer match between England and Nigeria in Brisbane, Australia, Aug. 7, 2023.

‘We’re not stunned to get to this stage. We consider in ourselves,’ Nnadozie mentioned. ‘We knew we may come right here and go far within the match. Football occurred to us. We simply need to preserve our heads up.’

Plumptre grew up taking part in as a ahead in England’s youth groups earlier than making a option to characterize Nigeria, and did not remorse it for a minute.

‘Football for me is extra of a life journey that I’m on. I needed to discover extra of my heritage,’ she mentioned. ‘For me, this, although it is soccer, it is studying. For me, there’s nothing extra fulfilling. I’m disillusioned within the end result, however grateful I’ve had the chance.’

Now a middle again, the 25-year-old Plumptre mentioned the Super Falcons had set a better bar for future performances.

‘We have the expectation that we ought to be competing with the top-ranked groups,’ she mentioned. ‘We ought to be pushing them to the very finish. We will be getting outcomes in opposition to them. Because, not solely this recreation have we performed that, however we have performed that all through the group stage as properly.

‘We’ve confirmed that on this match and I’m positive we will try this going ahead.’

Nigeria’s American coach Randy Waldrum silenced his pre-tournament critics by getting ready a crew that went throughout the thickness of a crossbar of reaching the final eight on the World Cup.

‘I take away that we will be and doubtless ought to be one of many prime groups on this planet,’ he mentioned. ‘I actually hope that FIFA rating goes from 42 to a greater quantity. More importantly, I believe we have simply proven that we’re able to taking part in with anyone.’

Waldrum mentioned his gamers and Nigeria’s supporters ought to be pleased with Super Falcons.

‘We gave the whole lot. I actually hope that individuals again in Nigeria recognize the job that they’ve performed whereas they’re right here and I might hope that they are completely satisfied, not upset,’ he mentioned. ‘I believe we made the nation proud and hopefully, all over the world.’