Although Germany and Canada will contest the official Opening Match of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™ in Berlin, the biggest show in women’s football will already be under way before that game kicks off. Three hours earlier, Nigeria will meet France in Sinsheim to set the ball rolling on the three-week tournament, the sixth in the history of the competition.
Nigeria-France, Sunday 26 June, Sinsheim, 15.00 (local time)
The core of the France squad is formed by players who took Lyon to their fifth straight league title this season and captured the UEFA Women’s Champions League for good measure. Virtually flawless in the qualifiers, Les Bleues warmed up for Germany 2011 with two victories over neighbours Belgium and a draw with Scotland, while Nigeria fitted five games into their preparations, winning one, drawing three and losing the other.
Though the two sides have never faced off in the competition before, both squads feature several players who were on duty when the nations crossed swords at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Chile 2008.
The Super Falcons have failed to win a FIFA Women’s World Cup match since defeating Denmark in Washington en route to the quarter-finals at USA 1999, their best performance in the competition to date. That seven-game winless streak comprises six defeats and a draw, which came against Sweden in their opening game at China 2007.
11 - The number of survivors from that previous meeting between the two nations at Chile 2008, eight of them Nigerian and the remainder French. That quarter-final tie ended in a 3-2 triumph for the Europeans, with Ebere Orji and Eugenie Le Sommer both in among the goals. Will there be a similar outcome in Sinsheim?
“We’ve seen some videos of their games and they’re a very athletic side who like to play a fast game. They have a lot of quality up front so we’ll need to be very watchful in defence. It’s going to be quite a challenge for us,” France defender Laura George.
“I don’t know much about France, and it’s the first time we’ve faced each other at full international level. Any team that reaches the World Cup has to be dangerous, though. We’ve never had much luck in this competition due to external factors like problems with acclimatising and getting used to the food. We’ve sorted that out this time though,” Nigeria coach Uche Ngozi.