Home » Articles, Columnists, Headlines, NNP Columnists, P, Soccer, Sports » FIFA 2023 Women’s World Cup: Why the Matildas of Australia Lost to the Super Falcons of Nigeria – By Phil Alalibo

FIFA 2023 Women’s World Cup: Why the Matildas of Australia Lost to the Super Falcons of Nigeria – By Phil Alalibo

By Prof. Phil Alalibo | NNP | July 29, 2023 – Since the Matildas of Australia lost 2-3 goals to the Super Falcons in their second group match at the ongoing FIFA Women’s World Cup, I have read the different and quite interesting adjectives used by the dejected and shocked members of the Australian media and fans to describe the loss. While I understand their frustration (trust me I do as I have been there many times), at the same time, I have been bemused by these adjectives as they are borne out of lack of knowledge of the strength and might of the opposition. If they had known of this strength and might I speak of, they would have been more accepting and tempered in their reactions and choice of words.

Some of the adjectives and words used are – “shocking,” “disastrous outing,” “an abominable loss,” “unforgivable,” “stunning,” “unbelievable,” and ”horrendous.” The loss had also been characterized as “paralyzing,” “fluffing their lines,” “a puzzle,” “nauseating,” “losing to a lowly ranked team,” norming,” and many other adjectives. There was also an exclamation of “ OMG – this didn’t happen to us” by a fan. Another frustrated Australian fan stated that with all the talented players the Matildas have, they couldn’t defeat the poorly ranked Africans. Really? What were the Matildas thinking? In what universe do they reside not to be aware of the threat posed by the Super Falcons?

All of these suggest that the Matildas (and their fans) extended very little regard to their so-called 40th ranked opponent, 30 below the “mighty” Matildas. The Matildas and their fans must have forgotten that rankings mean nothing as they don’t capture the strength, tenacity, resilience and talent of a team, but rather the number of matches played within a certain period and the strength or quality of the opposition.  The Matildas realized on Thursday that games are not won by rankings, but by grits, tenacity and resilience.

The formula for the rankings reveals a shallow process that is unreflective of substance or real meaning. If a team didn’t play a sufficient number of friendly matches or participate in a serious tournament within the period covered by the ranking, the team would not get a favourable ranking. This, however does not mean that it is not a good team, or the players are not talented. It simply means that the team didn’t play high profile friendlies to positively impact its position on the ranking.

Sadly, the Matildas failed to factor this important fact in their scouting report and unwisely assumed that they were playing a minnow. They had little appreciation for the fact that the Super Falcons are 11-time African champions with the likes of Asisat Osheola, Rashadat Ajibide, Chiamaka Nnadozie, all of whom ply their trade in Europe in the best leagues. For example, Osheola has won the African player-of-the year award multiple times, and Nnadozie has won best goalkeeper award in the French first division league where she plays. Ajibide plays for Athletico Madrid, a powerhouse in women’s football.

Still on Osheola, she is one of the best female strikers in the world with 157 overall goals to her credit since 2013. This is inclusive of 90 goals in 96 appearances for Barcelona since 2019. She has scored 29 international goals for the senior team and made history on Thursday by being the first African female player to score in three consecutive World Cups. What a feat! This is the calibre of player and team the Matildas brushed aside and looked forward to the knock out stages even before they locked horns with the Nigerians in Brisbane.

Other Super Falcon players play for respectable leagues and teams throughout Europe. For example, recent additions to the team, Ashleigh Plumptre, plays for Leicester City in the English Women’s Super league and Yale University educated Michelle Alozie (a cancer researcher when not on the field), plays for Houston Dash, to mention but a few. The team also has depth with the likes of Francisca Ordega, who played briefly in the W-League in Australia (Sydney), played in the U.S., China, among others, and currently plays for CSKA in Moscow.

These are the same leagues and teams the Matildas players play for. The Matildas must have also forgotten this fact and expected to run the Nigerians out of the SunCorp Stadium in Brisbane, riding on their reputation as the 10th ranked team in the world. The game has evolved and the experience gap has been bridged. But the Matildas and their handlers already dreaming of the knockout stages failed to factor in this reality and paid a hefty price in front of a mammoth home crowd of 49,000 plus.

The Matildas prematurely counted the maximum three points even before the referee blew the first whistle, as evident in their body language displayed on the pitch and words spoken before the kickoff. They clearly underestimated and undermined the prowess of the Super Falcons, who played with tactical efficiency and clinical superiority, the host having 64 percent control notwithstanding.

The Super Falcons, in spite of their off the field quarrels with their federation, are yet to concede a game in the group of death, seating atop two so-called top ten teams. It is hoped that the Matildas have learned an important lesson here, that rankings mean nothing, that never to count three points and look beyond the immediate opponent to the next stage of the competition. And finally, that it’s a bad idea to underestimate the heart of 11-time African champion. The Matildas will never forget the “shock defeat” (and Osheola’s jersey-removing celebration) to the Super Falcons on home soil on the biggest women’s football stage. This is a lesson for the books, and one for current and future generations of Australian football fans and Matildas yet to be born.

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Posted by on Jul 29 2023. Filed under Articles, Columnists, Headlines, NNP Columnists, P, Soccer, Sports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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