BRISBANE: Coach Randy Waldrum said his Nigeria team had been “underestimated and underappreciated” as they strive to seal their place in the Women’s World Cup last 16 on Monday.
Nigeria drew 0-0 with Olympic champions Canada in their opening match and then fought back from a goal down to beat co-hosts Australia 3-2.
That left the Super Falcons just needing to avoid defeat in their final game against already eliminated Ireland on Monday.
Waldrum’s side suffered a turbulent build-up to the tournament, the American coach clashing openly with the Nigerian football authorities over planning and unpaid wages.
Add in being in one of the toughest groups, and Nigeria were not expected to reach the knockout stages for only the third time.
Waldrum told reporters on Sunday that they had shown they were better than that and their Fifa ranking of 40th.
“I would say that we were underestimated and underappreciated,” the 66-year-old said on the eve of their meeting in Brisbane with the Irish.
“Hopefully we’ve proven that to the world right now that we belong in a higher place (than 40th).”
Defender Michelle Alozie agreed, saying it was wrong that their draw with Canada and win over Australia had been called surprise results by many.
“With regards to Canada, the last game we played against them outside of the World Cup we tied them 2-2 and I think a lot of people forget to acknowledge that,” she said.
“We’ve been building this entire time, the last two years that I’ve been on the team, and so when we came to Australia we felt very confident.
“We felt we had a game plan and all we had to do was execute it, especially on the counterattacks, which we did.
“So although it might have been a surprise for the rest of the world… we worked really hard for that, so it wasn’t much of a shock to us.”