The stage is set for a thunderous clash in Group B between Olympic Champs, Canada and co-hosts of the ongoing Women’s World Cup, Australia.
Both sides were expected to easily qualify for the round of 16 at the expense of Ireland and Nigeria.
But the table has turned. The two sides are rather struggling to see who amongst them will join Nigeria as eventual qualifiers from Group B.
Going into the final stages of the first lap of the contest, Canada has a four – point advantage secured from two matches.
The home lads, Australia has three points in the kitty from an overwhelming win against Ireland.
Canada despite her one point lead over Australia may be among pre – tournament favourites who may be sent home early. That is, if it fails to rise to the occasion in its final group match with co-host Australia.
To qualify for the round of 16, Canada will require a draw against the Australians who lost in a very crucial encounter to Nigeria’s Super Falcons.
Nigeria had come from a goal down in the first half to upstage the Aussies by three goals to two.
With four points, Nigeria who play against Ireland Monday at 11am are on top of the table in Group B.
The Olympic champions will need to watch their back as they go into the final group match.
An Australia offset is really possible looking at the situation.
The Australians, backed by a vociferous home crowd that keeps urging them on would no doubt fight like wounded lions.
Aussie fans disappointed by the loss to Nigeria would be hoping for the best against the Canadians.
With its back to the wall, the co-hosts will throw just about everything they have into attack in search of three full points.
Six points is all Australia needs from the last group match to qualify alongside Nigeria which is expected by any means possible to halt the Irish challenge.
The Canadians on the other hand may approach the last game with extreme caution. This would mean adopting a defensive strategy which will choke the midfield and stop the highly mobile Australians from using the wings.
If the Canadians secure only a draw, that will be it. They would end up with five points.
It will mean that the Australians who raised so much hope with their scintillating performance would be the ones to go home.
A win against Australia would similarly give Canada seven good points and a fine place in the round of 16.
Crowds are important to the success of competitions and FIFA, the world’s football organizing organ, may be keeping a wary eye on what could happen if the Aussies are sent packing out of the competition at this stage.
What will FIFA do? Can it afford to sacrifice Canada, a well known powerhouse in women football? That will of course depend on what happens on the field of play when both sides file out.
Playing before a capacity crowd of victory-seeking and goal hungry supporters, the odds may not be stacked in favour of Canada.
If Canada goes home, its players would forever live to regret their failure to convert a penalty kick against the hard fighting Nigerians.
Nnadozie, Nigeria’s keeper stopped a well taken shot off the 18-yard spot from finding the back of the net.
In a few hours from now, the fate of both footballing nations would be decided not only by grit, brawl and brain, but by the technical quality and superiority of any of the sides that truly wants victory at end of the two keenly contested halves.
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