Oparanozie’s goal not enough as Canada beats Nigeria 2-1
Janine Beckie and substitute Sophie Schmidt scored early in the second half to lift Canada to a 2-1 win over Nigeria in a pre-France 2019 FIFA Women World Cup friendly yesterday, reports sportsnet.ca. Jayde Riviere, an 18-year-old from Markham, Ont., making her first start and third appearance for Canada, set up both goals with crosses.
Desire Oparanozie had given Nigeria a first-half lead in the World Cup warm up at Pinatar Arena. Fifth-ranked Canada, which defeated number three, England 1-0 last Friday, improved its record to 4-0-2 in 2019. Canada chose No. 38 Nigeria as an opponent to see an African team in action as it opens its World Cup campaign in June in France against No. 46 Cameroun before facing No. 19 New Zealand and the eighth-ranked Netherlands.
Nigeria, which has won the CAF African Cup of Nations nine times, has qualified for all eight editions of the World Cup. The Super Falcons are led by former Sweden coach, Thomas Dennerby. Coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller made four changes from the starting lineup that beat England. Goalkeeper Erin McLeod, Riviere, Julia Gross and Jordyn Huitema slotted in for Stephanie Labbe, Allysha Chapman, Sophie Schmidt and captain Christine Sinclair.
Midfielder Desiree Scott, winning her 141st cap, captained Canada. Defender Shelina Zadorsky, a 26-year-old from London, Ont., who plays for the Orlando Pride, earned her 50th cap. Chances were rare early in the first half. Nigeria’s Rita Chikwelu, taking advantage of a poor pass from Kadeisha Buchanan, put a long-range shot on goal in the 25th minute but it went straight at McLeod.
Nigeria went ahead in the 26th minute when Uchenna Kanu outdistanced two Canadians and found Oparanozie behind the defence. Buchanan raced back but Oparanozie put on the brakes and the sliding Canadian went past her. Oparanozie, who plays in France for Guingamp, then curled a low shot past McLeod and did a victory dance. It was the first goal Canada had conceded in 2019 after five clean sheets.
Sinclair, Schmidt and goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo came in to start the second half, replacing Huitema, Grosso and McLeod.
Beckie tied it up early in 47th minute, acrobatically swinging a leg just outside the six-yard box to hammer home a Riviere cross. The ball went just over Sinclair’s head with three defenders caught out of position as Beckie pounced on the ball for her 25th international goal.
Riviere played provider again in the 53rd minute, sending in a cross for an unmarked Schmidt to head into the lower corner of the net for her 19th goal. Nigeria was missing star forward, Asisat Oshoala, a three-time African player of the year currently on loan to Barcelona from China’s Dalian Quanjian. Canada raised its record to 1-1-1 against the Nigerians. Their last meeting was at the 2011 World Cup in Germany, where Nigeria won 1-0 in a meaningless pool game given both teams had already missed out on the advancing to the knockout round.
Sinclair, Schmidt and Scott were the only Canadian players on yesterday’s roster who had seen action against Nigeria in the past. Last Friday, Sinclair scored career goal No. 180 as Canada dispatched England at Manchester’s Academy Stadium. The 35-year-old from Burnaby, B.C., is now just four goals back of retired American Abby Wambach’s world record of 184.
Canada will play a pre-tournament match against Mexico in Toronto on May 18.
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