Goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie was the hero for Nigeria to earn them a point against Canada at the Women’s World Cup on Friday but there was to be no fairytale debut for the Philippines.
Nigeria held Olympic champions Canada 0-0, thanks partly to a second-half penalty save by Nnadozie, before Switzerland defeated the Philippines 2-0 in the second match of the second day of the tournament.
Nnadozie called it a dream come true after denying record-breaking goalscorer Christine Sinclair from the spot in front of 21,410 fans in Melbourne.
It meant both sides took a point in their opening match in a tight-looking Group B, which also contains Ireland and co-hosts Australia.
Nigeria saw Deborah Abiodun pick up the first red card of this Women’s World Cup in the dying moments.
The 40-year-old Canada skipper Sinclair is hoping to make history by becoming the first player to score at six World Cups.
But having earned the penalty following a VAR check, she missed the chance to reach that milestone when Nnadozie saved her poor spot-kick.
“It was a great thing today that we were able to at least get something and it was a dream come true for me personally,” said the goalkeeper, who was named player of the match.
The 22-year-old Paris FC stopper said she wanted revenge on Sinclair — the all-time top scorer in international football — after conceding against the forward previously.
“When she took the ball, I was like, ‘Okay, it’s Sinclair again’, because the last time we played against them, she scored against me.
“I was very angry, and I told myself, this is the opportunity to make things right.”
No Philippines fairytale
The Philippines were making a piece of footballing history for their country, the first time in either men’s or women’s football that they reached the World Cup.
The tournament minnows thought they had taken the lead in the first half in the New Zealand city of Dunedin but the goal was ruled out for off-side in front of 13,711 spectators.
If that was the correct call by the officials, the VAR decision which gave the Swiss a penalty on the stroke of half-time was more contentious.
Ramona Bachmann was nevertheless unerring from the spot, sending goalkeeper Olivia McDaniel the wrong way.
The Swiss, ranked 20th in the world to their opponent’s 46th, were good value for their lead and doubled it in the 64th minute when Seraina Piubel slammed in a rebound from close range.
Away from the action, Australia coach Tony Gustavsson defended keeping Sam Kerr’s Women’s World Cup injury secret, saying he did so for tactical reasons and to protect his star player.
The Chelsea forward’s name was a shock omission from the team sheet for the co-hosts’ 1-0 win over Ireland on Thursday — the first sign that something was wrong.
Australia’s all-time top scorer and captain then issued a social media statement revealing she had a calf injury and will be out of at least the opening two games of the tournament in a big blow to her side.
After beating Ireland, Gustavsson admitted he had known that Kerr was a major doubt when the pair fronted the press on the eve of the game.
Gustavsson and Kerr had been all smiles at the pre-match media conference and said nothing about it, despite being asked by reporters if the team had any injury worries.
“I hope you respect and understand that when we sat here (on Wednesday) that I couldn’t speak openly about it,” he told reporters after the match, coming clean.
US enter fray
Saturday’s matches in Australia and New Zealand see the two favourites in action.
The United States launch their bid for an unprecedented third World Cup crown in a row against Vietnam in Auckland.
European champions England face another tournament minnow in debutants Haiti in Brisbane.
In other Saturday games, China face Denmark and Zambia are up against the 2011 champions Japan.
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