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Women's World Cup: Goals could be an issue for Australia

Australia were not wholly convincing as they opened their Women's World Cup campaign with a 1-0 win over Republic of Ireland and will be looking to step up a level when they face Nigeria in Brisbane on Thursday.

The Matildas needed a second-half penalty from Steph Catley to take all three points in Sydney last Friday, as they struggled in the final third in the absence of star striker Sam Kerr due to a calf injury.

Chelsea ace Kerr is also set to sit out the clash with the Super Falcons, leaving Aussie head coach Tony Gustavsson to try and find a way to make his side more potent in front of goal as they seek to secure a place in the knockout stages.

WhatAustralia Women v Nigeria Women
WhereLang Park, Brisbane
When20:00 (AEST), Thursday 27th July 2023
How to watchChannel 7
OddsAustralia Women 1.40, Draw 4.50, Nigeria Women 9.00

Attacking injury blows hit hard

Gustavsson will be very short of attacking options for the game at Lang Park on Thursday, with Kerr joined on the sidelines by Mary Fowler, who has been ruled out after suffering a concussion during training.

Emily van Egmond, Alex Chidiac, Tameka Yallop and Clare Wheeler are all possible partners for Caitlin Foord in attack, with Gustavsson having limited his selection choices by including Kyah Simon in his tournament squad.

Simon has not played at all since rupturing her left anterior cruciate ligament last October and is still unavailable for selection, with both her and Kerr seemingly unlikely to play any further part until the group stages of the tournament.

Meanwhile, the Matildas will also be without veteran defender Aivi Luik, who like Fowler sustained a head knock during training earlier this week, with both players hoping to be back in the fold for the Group B finale against Canada next Monday.

Luik did not feature against the Irish, but Gustavsson does have one additional defensive option at his disposal after Alanna Kennedy returned to training.

He also knows that a win on Thursday will make sure of a place in the last-16, with the Matildas the only side to win their opening fixture in Group B, with Nigeria and Canada having played out a goalless draw.

Goals may well be at a premium and, with so few games at the tournament having seen both teams score, you can get 2.37 on that happening at Lang Park.

Falcons not to be taken lightly

Nigeria and Australia do have previous at the Women's World Cup, having met in a feisty encounter in the group stage of the 2015 tournament in Canada.

An elbow from Ugo Njoku left Kerr with a bloody nose, while two goals from the currently injured Simon were enough to ensure that Australia made it through to the knockout stages.

They would go on to defeat Brazil 1-0 in the last-16, before being edged out by eventual runners-up Japan in the quarter-finals.

That remains their joint best-ever showing at a World Cup, with the Matildas going out on penalties to Norway in the last-16 four years ago.

This time around Nigeria will be looking for attacking inspiration from Barcelona forward Asisat Oshoala, while midfielders Rasheedat Ajibade and Halimatu Ayinde, of Atletico Madrid and Rosengard respectively, are available after suspension.

Paris FC goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie will be looking to continue her fine form after her penalty save from Christine Sinclair’s spot-kick ensured Nigeria earned a point against Canada.

Deborah Abiodun misses out after being sent off late on in that stalemate.

Nigeria are 6.00 to keep another clean sheet on Thursday, with Australia 5.50 to edge a 1-0 victory.

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