By Sedara Philip
Nigeria and Canada kick off their 2023 Women’s World Cup campaigns with a match that the North Americans will certainly feel they should be winning. Although Nigeria have plenty of World Cup pedigree, having played at every single edition of the tournament so far, Canada are reigning Olympic champions, and will be far more hopeful of going deep in the tournament.
Many of the members of their squad who won gold in Tokyo in 2020 are still around, so they have plenty of experience in their ranks. Christine Sinclair has a whopping 323 caps to her name, while in Sophie Schmidt (221), Kadeisha Buchanan (131), Ashley Lawrence (117) and Jessie Fleming (115), Canada have four more players with over 100 international caps.
Their English coach, Bev Priestman, spent two years as Phil Neville’s assistant with the Lionesses, and she knows what it takes to win a tournament, having been in charge in Tokyo and having also won the SheBelieves Cup with England in 2019.
The reigning Olympic title holders have always managed to reach the knockout stage in the following Women’s World Cup, while the USA has twice managed to win the World Cup straight after Olympic success, doing so in 1999 and 2015, so there is good reason to expect good things from Canada.
Nigeria, meanwhile, are the only African team to play at every single edition of the Women’s World Cup, but they hold the unwanted record of having the lowest goal difference in the history of the tournament (-43), winning just four of their 26 matches.
Since the turn of the century, they have failed to score in 12 of their 16 matches at the Women’s World Cup and have won only two of those games. However, perhaps crucially, one of those wins was a 1–0 over Canada back in 2011, while the other was at the most recent tournament – a 2-0 win over South Korea in 2019. You can see why Canada are favourites to win, but Nigeria do have plenty of quality in their squad, with lots of players who play their club football in Europe or the USA
Barcelona’s Asisat Oshoala will be their key player at the tournament, having scored 30 goals in 41 international appearances so far. With a goal at this tournament, she would become the first African to score at three different Women’s World Cup tournaments.
Nigeria vs Canada Head-to-Head
Nigeria and Canada have met five times before, and two of those meetings have come in Women’s World Cups. Nigeria are unbeaten in those two World Cup meetings, but they came rather a long time ago – a 3-3 draw in 1995 and the aforementioned 1-0 win for Nigeria in 2011.
Canada have beaten Nigeria twice in friendlies in recent years, before the sides played out a 2-2 draw in their most recent meeting in April 2022. That day, Nigeria twice took the lead, but were pegged back both times. Canada only just managed to rescue a draw in 88th minute.
Both teams have a little too much experience of losing World Cup matches, with Nigeria having lost more games at WWCs than any other side (19), and Canada following close behind them having lost the third most (14).
The Opta supercomputer reckons it is more likely that Nigeria will make it 20 defeats by losing this one, as Canada have a 58.4% chance of picking up all three points to start Group B in the best way possible. However, Nigeria have won their last three games in the lead up to this World Cup and will hope they can extend that run of form into the tournament itself. The Opta supercomputer gives a 17.8% chance of that happening.
Nigeria vs Canada Squads
Nigeria: Tochukwu Oluehi, Ashleigh Plumptre, Osinachi Ohale, Glory Ogbonna, Onome Ebi, Ifeoma Onumonu, Toni Payne, Asisat Oshoala, Desire Oparanozie, Christy Ucheibe, Gift Monday, Uchenna Kanu, Deborah Abiodun, Oluwatosin Demehin, Rasheedat Ajibade, Chiamaka Nnadozie, Francisca Ordega, Halimatu Ayinde, Jennifer Echegini, Rofiat Imuran, Esther Okoronkwo, Michelle Alozie, Yewande Balogun.
Canada: Kailen Sheridan, Allysha Chapman, Kadeisha Buchanan, Shelina Zadorsky, Quinn, Deanne Rose, Julia Grosso, Jayde Riviere, Jordyn Huitema, Ashley Lawrence, Evelyne Viens, Christine Sinclair, Sophie Schmidt, Vanessa Gilles, Nichelle Prince, Gabrielle Carle, Jessie Fleming, Sabrina D’Angelo, Adriana Leon, Cloé Lacasse, Simi Awujo, Lysianne Proulx, Olivia Smith.