2019 Women's World Cup team previews: Nigeria
The winningest African team, with 11 continental championships, is one of only seven teams to have qualified for every World Cup. Nigeria is a supreme underdog in this group, currently at 38th in the world and having won only one of its past 12 World Cup games, but expect the Super Falcons to go down swinging.
How they got here
Nigeria won the 2018 Total Africa Women's Cup of Nations, its third consecutive and fourth going back to 2010.
Nigeria has a slew of young, fast forwards strewn across Europe and in China who cause headaches for more talented squads. Just look at its 2015 World Cup in the Group of Death: Nigeria played Sweden to a 3-3 tie -- drawing level on three separate occasions -- narrowly lost to Australia 2-0 and then were edged by the United States 1-0. Those teams would finish 2015 ranked eighth, ninth and first, respectively. The Super Falcons hang around.
Money stat: 6
Remember how Nigeria is one of only seven teams to have qualified for every World Cup? Well, unfortunately, the other six have all reached a final. The closest the Super Falcons came was the quarterfinals 20 years ago. They haven't made it out of the group stage since.
Players to watch
Nigeria has a bright future at the forward position. Asisat Oshoala, the Golden Boot and Golden Ball winner at the 2014 Under-20 Women's World Cup, is tearing up Spain on loan at Barcelona, and 18-year-old Anam Imo moved to Swedish powerhouse FC Rosengard in April.
Nigeria needs to pull out a draw against Norway five days earlier, but its most important matchup is against South Korea on June 12. The Super Falcons won't outlast the supremely fit Taeguk Nangja, but if the young talent can surprise South Korea's defense early, Group A could get funky.
"Even though it's a different opponent, there is a culture around the continent that's the same, so that's what we're trying to expose ourselves to. It'll be a great match against a team that is the African champion, which is also at the World Cup. It's not just an African opponent." -- Canada coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller to the Canadian Press in April, noting Canada chose to play a friendly against Nigeria to prepare for Cameroon, which it drew in Group E.
As due as Nigeria might be for advancing from the group stage, this probably won't be the year. The team was drawn with hosts France and Norway, one of only four countries to have won a World Cup. But if Nigeria keep churning out young expats who excel internationally at the club level, it could shock the world in 2023.