Nigeria’s goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie helped Nigeria earn a vital 0-0 draw against Olympic champions Canada in their FIFA Women’s World Cup opening on Friday, leaving their group wide open.
Nnadozie saved a penalty in the 50th minute at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, denying Christine Sinclair from the spot with a low left-footed jump, preventing Canada’s captain from becoming the first player to score in six World Cups.
Following the co-hosts’ 1-0 win over Ireland on Thursday, the teams were left with a point each, trailing Group B leaders Australia by two points.
Both teams had chances, but Sinclair, who came off in the 70th minute, was possibly the most disappointed, having also squandered a wonderful opportunity when she blasted wide in the ninth minute.
Nigeria scarcely broke into the final third in the second half, but fought valiantly to keep the Canadians at bay till the final whistle.
Nnadozie collapsed to her knees and roared in excitement after the last whistle.
Nigeria’s elation was tempered by the sending off of midfielder Deborah Abiodun in stoppage time. She will not play in their next game against Australia.
Canada dominated possession, and Nigeria were quickly opened up, with Sinclair finding space on the outskirts of the area and firing wide of the right post.
Nigeria eventually got its stride and began to chip away at the Canadian defence on the left wing.
In the 23rd minute, Ifeoma Onumonu unleashed a long-range strike that forced custodian Kailen Sheridan into a diving save at the far post.
Jordyn Huitema responded for Canada with a golden chance in the box but headed wide.
The scrappiness continued, with Sheridan sprinting off her line 10 minutes before halftime and missing the ball with a clearing kick, giving Nigeria a chance.
However, Asisat Oshoala’s near-post cross was blocked, and both teams went into the halftime break dissatisfied.
Shortly after the break, Sinclair was hauled down in the box by Francisca Ordega, and a penalty was granted by VAR.
Nnadozie, on the other hand, blocked Sinclair’s tepid spot attempt, eliciting a tremendous shout from Nigerian fans.
Another Canadian chance went begging when replacement Evelyne Viens latched onto a header in the box but volleyed straight into the arms of the Nigerian keeper as the Africans held strong until the end.