Fireworks as World Champs, US, Nigeria clash in Summer Series finale

By Harry Awurumibe, Africa’s No. 1 Women’s Football Journalist

Nigeria line-up vs Jamaica

All is now set as United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) will in the early hours of Thursday in Nigeria  (which is 8 pm in Texas), face their toughest test in the Four-Nation invitational tournament when the reigning World Champions clash with African Champions, Nigeria in the last match of the Summer Series at Q2 Stadium in Austin, Texas.

On paper, the encounter between Nigeria’s Super Falcons and Team USA could be termed a mismatch in many respects just as both teams are ranked miles apart in the current ranking of the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA).

Champions Pose…USWNT

While the ‘Stars and Stripes’ are Undisputed World Number One, Nigeria is ranked 37 lower than US at

Number 38 in the world, a situation which makes the encounter a no contest.
Also, US has won the FIFA Women’s World Cup four times, finished second once and won bronze three times even as US has equally won Four Gold and One Silver medals in the Olympic Games.
For decades, Team USA has been topping podiums, making waves and racking up hardware as they prove to the rest of the world what grit and greatness looks like.

Falcons Skipper Asisat Oshoala

From the team’s first trailblazers who won the very first Women’s World Cup in 1991, to the iconic 99er’s who captured the eyes and hearts of a nation, to the generation inspired by all of the above that now wear the ‘Stars and Stripes’ with pride—the Women’s National Team is, always has been, and always will be a force to be reckoned with on and off the field of play.

In contrast, Nigeria’s Super Falcons which has attended the same eight FIFA Women’s World Cup final since 1991 in China like the US has only managed to make two second round appearances in the same competition the Americans have won medals in all eight outings.
Aside the African Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON) which Nigeria has won a record 9-times and one  low-rated West African Football Union (WAFU) B Cup in 2018, the country has not finished at podium both in the FIFA Women’s World Cup and Olympic Games.

Bad Gal…Megan Rapinoe wheels away after scoring a goal for Team USA.

As was reported by this medium last week, US versus Nigeria match

at the brand new Q2 Stadium in Austin, Texas will mark the first time the USA has ever faced Nigeria outside of a FIFA Women’s World Cup final and Olympic Games.
Of the USA’s five previous meetings with Nigeria, four came in the FIFA Women’s World Cup and one in the Olympics in Sydney  2000, just as USA has faced Nigeria in Group Stage in three consecutive FIFA Women’s  World Cup final– 1999, 2003, 2007 – and also in 2015.
Sportsrevelation reports that both countries met first in FIFA Women’s World Cup tie on June 24, 1999 at Soldier Field Stadium, Chicago during the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup final.
It was an embarrassing 7-1 scoreline as a 2nd minute late Ifeanyi Chiejine own goal was cancelled out by midfielder, Nkiru Okosieme in the 3rd minute but that goal angered Mia Hamm led USA to go goals crazy afterwards to score six more goals against goalkeeper Ann Agumanu-Chiejine.

Summer Series Revelation. ..Michelle Alozie scored against Portugal last time out.

Also, Nigeria and  USA met the second time in Sydney 2000 Olympics and Nigeria under veteran coach, Ismaila Mabo lost 1-3 to USA at Melbourne Stadium, Australia.

The two nations met one more time in 2003 and Nigeria under Coach Samuel Okpodu lost again just as Super Falcons lost
on June 16, 2015 in Vancouver, Canada  where USA won 1-0 by a late goal from superstar, Abby Wambach to lead Group D.
For this reason, the Nigerian team presently coached by long-time American College coach, Randy Waldrum, who is currently the Head Coach at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has a tough task to reverse the trend of losses to the Americans in Texas.
Expectedly, this match will be a litmus test for Waldrum’s tactical prowess and technical skills just as Nigeria’s victory over USA will confirm the American as the best coach of the Super Falcons.

Nigeria gaffer.. Randy Waldrum, can he create history in Austin.

No fewer than 13 former head coaches of Super Falcons, especially  the four coaches who were fortunate  to clash with Team USA in the FIFA Women’s World Cup final and Olympics, lost their matches.

They are Coaches Mabo, USA 1999 and Sydney 2000; Okpodu, USA 2003; late Joseph Ladipo aka Jossy Lad, China 2007 and Edwin Okon, Canada 2015. None won a match against USA hence it is expected that Waldrum and his players can at least get a draw from this game.
But it will be an uphill task for Captain Asisat Oshoala led Super Falcons as this American team loaded to the brim are not likely to mess up their home unbeaten streak which now stands at 54 games, including 49 wins and five draws. During the streak, the U.S. has outscored its opponents 191-27, including a 57-1 margin during its last 15 matches.
It’s the USA’s 16th-straight home victory, dating back to head coach Vlatko Andonovski’s first match in charge of the team in Nov. 2019.
Andonovski is 18-0-1 in his first 19 games (two at the end of 2019, nine in 2020 and eight so far in 2021), setting a record for the best start for a head coach in USWNT history. Team USA coach will select a crack squad with his eyes on winning the 2021 Summer Series diadem on the night.
Team USA Likely Lineup:
1-Alyssa Naeher, 5-Kelley O’Hara, 7-Abby Dahlkemper, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn (Capt.), 19-Crystal Dunn, 9-Lindsey Horan, 16-Rose Lavelle, 3-Samantha Mewis, 23-Christen Press, 13-Alex Morgan and 15-Megan Rapinoe (2-Sophia Smith, 73)
Substitutes:10-Carli Lloyd, 18-Jane Campbell, 21-Adrianna Franch: 11-Catarina Macario, 20-Margaret Purce, 22-Kristine Mewis, 25-Andi Sullivan, 26-Alana Cook,14-Emily Sonnet, 12-Tierna Davidson, 6-Lynn Williams and 2- Sophia Smith.

USWNT Head Coach Vlatko Andonovski

However, Waldrum will keep faith with players who performed creditably in the two earlier matches against Jamaica and Portugal especially skipper Oshoala and experienced center back Onome Ebi as well as much-improved Rasheedat Ajibade, Michelle Alozie, Toni Payne and goalkeeper Tochukwu Oluehi among others.

Nigeria Likely Lineup:

1-Tochukwu Oluehi; 4-Glory Ogbonna; 9-Toni Payne; 10-Rita Chikwelu; 13-Ifeoma Onumonu; 14-Chidinma Okeke; 15-Rasheedat Ajibade; 17-Francisca Ordega; 22-Michelle Alozie; 5-Onome Ebi and 8-Asisat Oshoala (Capt.)
Substitutes: 3-Salome Zogg, 7-Ebinemiere Bokiri, 12-Ijeoma Okonronkwo, 2-Gift Monday, 21-Nicole Payne, 18-Obianujunwa8, Ikechukwu, 16-Yewande Balogun, 23-Sunday Etim, 6-Charity Adule, 11-Amanda Mbadi, 19-Akudo Ogbonna and 20-Blessing Demehin.

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