In a match of high drama in Brisbane, Australia in the FIFA Women’s World Cup Round of 16, the Nigerian’s Women’s National Team led by Pitt’s Randy Waldrum, could not find a goal in the run of play, even after with a player advantage at the end of regulation and 30 minutes of extra time, eventually falling to European Champions, England, 4-2, in a dramatic penalty kick shootout.
“The players are in tears. It’s a big disappointment to them. We just tried to console them and let them understand it’s part of football,” Waldrum said in the post match press conference.
“I hope the people in Nigeria hope they appreciate the job that they’ve done. I think we made the country proud.”
Heading into the tournament, Waldrum and his players faced numerous obstacles, well chronicled on Pittsburgh Soccer Now, as the Nigerian National Football Federation canceled pre-World Cup training, involved in pay disputes and interference in Waldrum’s player and coaching selections.
Once Waldrum and the Nigerian team arrived, began to train and prepare for the tournament in Australia, they remained focused on the task at hand.
The Super Falcons went through the Group Stage play without losing a match, stunning host Australia, 3-2, while playing both Canada and Ireland to hard-fought draws.
Ahead of the knockout stage match with England, Waldrum stated that his squad would not be intimidated. Sure enough, Nigeria had its chances, but couldn’t find that winning moment.
Instead, Chloe Kelly’s strike to start the fifth round of the shootout clinched the Three Lions’ spot in the quarterfinal round, and left Nigeria short of a breakthrough advance in the tournament, as no African nation has ever won a knockout round match in the Women’s World Cup.
Nigeria loses in the PK shootout to England.
— John Krysinsky (@JohnKrysinsky) August 7, 2023
Desire Oparanozie and Michelle Alozie’s back-to-back misses to open the shootout put Nigeria behind, while England converted its last three kicks.
Ninety minutes of regulation couldn’t decide things as Nigeria and England battled on pretty even terms in regulation, with the Three Lions holding the possession edge. The Super Falcons were effective in transition moments as they had the better of play for most of the match.
“I think we gave some teams in this tournament a blueprint of how to approach [stopping England],” Waldrum said.
“We saw that China gave the back three too much time, then when you add that to James finding the space, it was a recipe for disaster for them.”
Nigeria also had the benefit of VAR review in the 33rd minute, as England was not granted a penalty kick following what looked like a push from Rasheedat Ajibade on Rachel Daly.
Outstanding goalkeeping from Nigeria’s Chiamaka Nnadozie also kept the Super Falcons in the game, denying a few dangerous chances from the English attack.
Double SAVE by NNADOZIE to deny England
Common SUPER FALCONS
— Chijioke Ike (@ChijiokeIke3) August 7, 2023
The match turned in the 86th minute when England’s rising superstar Lauren James was sent off with a red card for a retaliation step on the back of Nigeria’s Alozie.
Fantastic picture https://t.co/tzsVepO0DL
— randy waldrum fan (@skybluefcs) August 7, 2023
Despite having the extra player edge, Nigeria couldn’t find a goal in the run of play, as England effectively bunkered in for extra time.
The result didn’t go the way for Nigeria and Waldrum, but they showed that they belong on the big stage.
“We’ve not lost a game. I’m so proud of them,” Waldrum added.
“There’s such a bright future for this group. The players came together in an unbelievable way for this tournament. I’m so proud of each and every one of them. They played their hearts out.”
Waldrum, asked about South Africa bidding for the next Women’s World Cup: “It would do wonders for football in Africa. I hope it happens. I think it would help transform football there.”
Waldrum’s contract with the Nigeria will end in a few weeks, as he’ll also be getting back to Pittsburgh, as the University of Pittsburgh women’s team has already begun training for the Fall season, which kicks off in less than two weeks.
Super Falcons coach, Randy Waldrum; "I want to stay with this team."
The ball is with the NFF to kick out or keep it.
— Adepoju Tobi Samuel 🇳🇬 (@OgaNlaMedia) August 7, 2023
A massive tournament for Irving, Texas-born Nigeria coach Randy Waldrum. Was in public conflict with the 🇳🇬 Federation for non-payment of salary. They called him “incompetent”, “Mr. Blabbermouth” and "worst-ever manager of the Super Falcons.” And his players made the nation proud pic.twitter.com/TtnQ9reuLQ
— Men in Blazers (@MenInBlazers) August 7, 2023
THIS IS WHY WE PLAY 🏴🇳🇬
Just moments after scoring the winning penalty, England's Chloe Kelly and others went over to comfort 22-year-old Chiamaka Nnadozie of Nigeria who has been truly incredible throughout this FIFA Women's World Cup ❤️ pic.twitter.com/YxN0Jlzlnk
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) August 7, 2023
Super proud of Randy Waldrum and the Super Falcons
•Chiamaka heroics against Canada
•The Crazy Win against Australia
•The heart fought Draw against Ireland
•And the crazy battle till extra time
You gave your all #SuperFalcons#Nigeria pic.twitter.com/2DCSEXUoDy
— GRIZ Kc ROY (@GRIZ_KCROY) August 7, 2023
Hats off to Terry Eguaoje, the US-trained Nigerian coach drafted into the Super Falcons backroom staff to help out Mr Randy Waldrum.
Your name will not be mentioned by many but we see you. pic.twitter.com/Op8KNNWBI3
— Fisayo Dairo (@FisayoDairo) August 7, 2023
Chloe Kelly and England have nothing but respect for Chiamaka Nnadozie 🤝 pic.twitter.com/QkZFOD1mJg
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) August 7, 2023
Much appreciation needs to go to Coach Randy Waldrum…
This team is so tactically sound.
How he played out England treat "Laura James" has been impressive so far…
— CONVERT 🇳🇬 (@ConvertOdds) August 7, 2023
Devastation for Nigeria. Tough way to lose on pens for them against England.
Credit to @Pitt_WSOC head coach Randy Waldrum and the Nigeria team for playing as great as they did.
No one expected them to make it this far with the conditions they were put under. Great World Cup
— Dominic Campbell (@DOMISMONEY) August 7, 2023