Nigeria Women and Canada Women will begin their respective 2023 Women’s World Cup campaigns when they face off at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium on Friday.
The Super Falcons have attended all nine World Cup finals, while Canada have appeared at every tournament since missing the inaugural edition in 1991.
With the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations serving as a World Cup qualifying tournament, Nigeria reached the semi-final stage to secure their place in Australia and New Zealand.
Sitting in 40th place in the FIFA World Rankings, the Super Falcons are the lowest-ranked side in a group that features co-hosts Australia, Canada and the Republic of Ireland.
As a result, Nigeria know that they will have to pull off a surprise result or two if they are to reach the knockout stages for the third time in their World Cup history.
Randy Waldrum’s side have gained valuable confidence in their last three matches, recording victories over Costa Rica, Haiti and New Zealand.
Nigeria’s previous meeting with Canada in April 2022 produced a 2-2 draw, and a similar result on Friday would certainly be regarded as a success.
Canada, meanwhile, head into the World Cup as the reigning Olympic champions after winning gold in Tokyo two years ago.
They have been unable to enjoy similar success in the World Cup, with their best performance at the tournament taking place in 2003 when they finished in fourth place.
They were unable to make it out of the group stage in the next two World Cup finals, before falling at the quarter-final stage in their home World Cup in 2015.
In the 2019 tournament, they finished second in the group behind the Netherlands to advance to the last-16 where they were narrowly beaten by Sweden, who went on to finish in third position.
With Canada hoping to kick off the tournament with a win over Nigeria, they may be able to take confidence from the fact that they have won their last two World Cup openers by a 1-0 scoreline.
Paris FC’s Chiamaka Nnadozie is expected to start in goal for Nigeria, and she could be shielded by the central defensive pairing of Oluwatosin Demehin and Onome Ebi.
Toni Payne, Halimatu Ayinde and Onyi Echegini are expected to feature in the centre of Nigeria’s midfield for the opening game.
After scoring 27 competitive goals for Barcelona last season, Asisat Oshoala will be hoping to carry her club form into the World Cup.
As for Canada, Kadiesha Buchanan is expected to partner Vanessa Gilles in central defence, while Ashley Lawrence and Allysha Chapman are set to operate as the two full-backs.
Canada boss Bev Priestman is hopeful that Chelsea midfielder Jessie Fleming will be available for Friday’s opener following concerns over her fitness.
Christine Sinclair is the all-time leading scorer in men’s or women’s international football with 190 goals, and the veteran striker will be hoping to add to her tally against Nigeria.
Nigeria Women possible starting lineup:
Nnadozie; Alozie, Demehin, Ebi, Imuran; Okoronkwo, Payne, Ayinde, Echegini, Ajibad; Oshoala
Canada Women possible starting lineup:
Sheridan; Lawrence, Buchanan, Gilles, Chapman; Grosso, Schmidt, Fleming; Leon, Huitema, Sinclair