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Nigeria vs. Canada key facts

Welcome to The Globe’s live blog for Canada’s first appearance at the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Canada is considered one to watch this tournament, particularly after winning the Olympic gold medal at Tokyo.

  • Final score: Nigeria 0 - Canada 0
  • Where: Melbourne Rectangular Stadium
  • Time: Thursday, July 20 at 10:30 p.m. ET
  • Official: Lina Lehtovaara
  • Rankings: Canada (7), Nigeria (40)
  • How to watch: TSN and CTV

12:33 a.m. ET

Canada falls short in its World Cup opener

Canada was unable to break the deadlock in its Women’s World Cup opener on Friday in Melbourne, settling for a 0-0 draw against Nigeria, the world’s 40th-ranked team. The result leaves both teams with one point, trailing co-host Australia, which won its opener 1-0 against Ireland. The top two teams in the group will advance to the knockout rounds after the round-robin – in which games can end in a tie – is complete.

Captain Christine Sinclair had a golden chance to put Canada in front, earning a penalty after she was fouled inside the penalty area after 51 minutes. But Sinclair was unable to capitalize, firing her shot low but too close to Nigeria goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie, who saved with her left hand and was alert enough to deny Sinclair any chance of scoring on the rebound.

That was one of just two shots on target for Canada’s Olympic champions, who struggled to generate much of anything going forward. But scoring goals has been something of a problem for the Canadians in 2023, with Canada now getting shut out three times in six games – four if you include the behind-closed-doors World Cup warm-up match against England, which wasn’t an official international game.

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Canada's forward Jordyn Huitema reacts as Nigeria players celebrate the draw during the Australia and New Zealand 2023 Women's World Cup Group B football match between Nigeria and Canada.WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images

Next up for Canada is a trip to Perth to play Ireland on Wednesday, before returning to Melbourne to play co-host Australia – possibly bolstered by the return of injured superstar Sam Kerr – on July 31.

Canada will surely benefit from the return of midfield dynamo Jessie Fleming, who missed the opener after picking up a knock in training. As she showed in games such as the Olympic semi-final against the United States, Fleming is a woman for the big occasion, with a knack for producing key goals when her country needs them.

Next Wednesday would be a good time for her – or anyone, really – to find the back of the net and get Canada’s World Cup campaign truly up and running.

While head coach Bev Priestman was doubtless disappointed that Canada did not win, she took a very matter-of-fact approach to the goalless draw.

“This is tournament football,” she told TSN after the final whistle. “We take a point from it. I was pleased with the push from the team.”

And channelling the thought process that she has drummed into her players since they won Olympic gold in Tokyo two years ago, you can never stand still. So Priestman refused to dwell on what could or couldn’t have been, instead choosing to look ahead to the team’s game against Ireland. “We’ve got to very quickly move on,” she told TSN. “I thought there was some positive play, we’ve just to do it better over 90 minutes.”

- Paul Attfield

12:28 a.m. ET

Red card for Nigeria

Deep into stoppage time, Nigeria’s Deborah Abiodun is shown a straight red card for a dangerous challenge on Ashley Lawrence, following through on her lower shin. Fortunately for Canada, Lawrence didn’t seem to suffer any adverse effects.

- Paul Attfield

12:13 a.m. ET

Final substitution for Canada

With less than 10 minutes remaining in the game, Nichelle Prince comes on to replace Julia Grosso for a fresh set of legs as Canada attempts to push on to secure the win and three points from its World Cup opener.

- Paul Attfield

12 a.m. ET

Priestman makes more substitutions, subbing Sinclair for Sophie Schmidt

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Canada's head coach Bev Priestman reacts during the Women's World Cup Group B soccer match between Nigeria and Canada in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, July 21, 2023.Hamish Blair/The Associated Press

With just one shot on target after 64 minutes – Christine Sinclair’s penalty that was saved by Chiamaka Nnadozie – head coach Bev Priestman decides to make another change. So Adriana Leon makes way for Evelyne Viens, who moves into the centre forward role, with Jordyn Huitema sliding out to the left. The move shows almost immediate promise, with Viens forcing a save from Nnadozie just minutes after coming on.

Shortly afterward, Priestman makes two more changes, Sinclair being subbed off for Sophie Schmidt, while Jayde Riviere is withdrawn in favour of Allysha Chapman.

- Paul Attfield

11:42 p.m. ET

Sinclair misses penalty kick

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Nigeria's Chiamaka Nnadozie saves a shot from Canada's Christine Sinclair.HANNAH MCKAY/Reuters

Christine Sinclair had a chance at history – and to give Canada the lead – but her spot kick was saved in the 51st minute. The captain was fouled clumsily by Francisca Ordega. After video review, the referee pointed to the spot, but Sinclair placed her shot too close to keeper Chiamaka Nnadozie, and Canada’s captain was denied her chance to score in a sixth successive World Cup and stays at 190 international goals.

- Paul Attfield

11:37 p.m. ET

Priestman brings in Lacasse for Rose

Priestman makes her first move of the game, replacing Deanne Rose with Cloe Lacasse at the start of the second half. Lacasse, who recently joined Arsenal in the Women’s Super League, is making her 20th appearance for Canada, and immediately replaces Rose on the right of the attack.

- Paul Attfield

11:30 p.m. ET

Score remains 0-0 at halftime as Canada averts near disaster

The good news is that Canada has never failed to score in its opening game of a World Cup. The bad? It will need a shot on target to do so, something that the team failed to muster throughout the opening 45 minutes of this game.

In truth, the halftime whistle likely came at the perfect time for head coach Bev Priestman. The early dominance that Canada exuded for the first quarter of an hour seems like a long time ago as the two teams head to the dressing rooms.

Nigeria grew into the game as the half wore on and ended up generating the only shot on target from either of the teams, when Ifeoma Onumonu called Canada goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan into action to palm the ball around the post midway through the half.

Canada averted near disaster with 10 minutes to play in the half. A searching through ball was missed entirely by Sheridan, allowing Asisat Oshoala with a clear sight of goal, albeit from a narrow angle. However, Canada cleared and Ashley Lawrence bravely put her body on the line to get the ball out of the penalty area as she was clattered into by a Nigerian forward.

We wait to see what moves Priestman will make during the interval to get the Olympic champions operating on the front foot more come the second half.

- Paul Attfield

11 p.m. ET

Canada dominates, but Nigeria is finding its feet

Midway through the first half of the opening game, Canada has been firmly in control of almost everything. However, despite dominating possession on a ratio of 2 to 1, Canada has created very little going forward. The first real sight of goal came in the ninth minute, when Ashley Lawrence found Christine Sinclair in space outside the penalty area, but the Canadian captain couldn’t keep her shot down, firing it over the crossbar.

Six minutes later, Kadeisha Buchanan got another half-chance following a corner from Adriana Leon, but her shot was blocked by a Nigerian defender.

But Nigeria has begun to find its feet in the game. The Super Falcons’ Ify Onumonu forced a fine save from Kailen Sheridan in the 23rd minute, courtesy of a rasping right-footed drive that the Canadian goalkeeper turned around the post.

- Paul Attfield

10:45 p.m. ET

Canadian fans fill the stands in Melbourne

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Scott Barbour/The Canadian Press

10:35 p.m. ET

As reigning Olympic champs, Canada looks to win opening match

And we’re off. Canada has kicked off its eighth appearance at the Women’s World Cup, aiming to become just the second team to win the World Cup as reigning Olympic champions.

Canada captain Christine Sinclair took to the pitch wearing one of the eight FIFA-sanctioned armbands that were available to national team captains at this Women’s World Cup. Sinclair wore the ‘Unite for Inclusion’ armband on her left arm, the same armband that England captain Millie Bright plans to wear in her team’s opener on the weekend.

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Canada's Christine Sinclair and Kailen Sheridan line up during the national anthems before the match. Sinclair wears a ‘Unite for Inclusion’ armband.HANNAH MCKAY/Reuters

While Bright plans to rotate her armband, it’s not known if Sinclair will do the same. The other seven armbands display the messages ‘Unite for Peace,’ ‘Unite for Education for All,’ ‘Unite for Zero Hunger,’ ‘Unite for Ending Violence Against Women,’ ‘Football is Joy, Peace, Hope, Love and Passion,’ ‘Unite for Indigenous People,’ and ‘Unite for Gender Equality.’

- Paul Attfield

10:15 p.m. ET

The Nigerian player Canada must keep an eye on

If there’s one player that this Canada team should fear in its Women’s World Cup opener, it’s Nigeria striker Asisat Oshoala. The first and only five-time African footballer of the year – considered by some to be the greatest player Africa has produced – Nigeria’s No. 8 is coming off a year to remember at club level.

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Nigeria's Asisat Oshoala and South Korea's Kim Hye-ri fight for the ball during a 2019 Women's World Cup match.JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT/AFP/Getty Images

She scored 21 goals in 28 La Liga appearances for FC Barcelona Femeni as the Spanish giant swept all before it, winning the treble of league crown, the domestic cup and the UEFA Women’s Champions League.

Now she has her sights set on the World Cup, competing in the tournament for the third consecutive time, having scored in each of her previous appearances, and helping Nigeria to the round of 16 four years ago.

- Paul Attfield

10:10 p.m. ET

Who are the World Cup favourites?

The U.S. won the Women’s World Cup in 2019.

The U.S. national team, which sits at the top of the FIFA rankings and has already won four World Cups, is this year’s favourite despite playing without long-time captain Becky Sauerbrunn, Christen Press and Mallory Swanson, whose injuries held them out of the tournament.

Other teams to watch include two-time winner Germany, ranked second, third-ranked Sweden, and Canada, following its gold-medal win at the Tokyo Olympics.

9:55 p.m. ET

Coach Priestman announces Canada’s starting lineup

Team Canada coach Bev Priestman has unveiled what looks on paper to be a fairly attack-minded lineup for the country’s opening match at the Women’s World Cup. There’s no Jessie Fleming, the two-time defending Canadian player of the year, with the midfield dynamo not 100 per cent after picking up a knock in training. However, Priestman says it’s nothing to be concerned about, and won’t affect her participation in the rest of the tournament.

In attack, Christine Sinclair, as expected, leads the team into action, with the record international goal scorer set to take part in her 22nd Women’s World Cup match in her sixth tournament. Quinn will have to do much of the legwork in midfield in Fleming’s absence, supported by Julia Grosso, who scored the winning penalty in the Olympic shootout win.

Up front, the offence will be driven by Jordyn Huitema, Adriana Leon and Deanne Rose, who have a combined 54 international goals among them, ably abetted, of course, by the 190 that Sinclair has scored across her 20-plus-year international career.

- Paul Attfield

9:15 p.m. ET

Canada should feel confident, but upsets are always lurking

After all the preparations, buildup and hard work, both on the pitch and off it, Canada will kick off its Women’s World Cup campaign – Thursday night in Canada, Friday lunchtime in Melbourne, Australia – against Nigeria, the world’s 40th-ranked team.

On paper, the Olympic defending champions, currently ranked seventh in the world, should feel confident heading into the opening match, having played Nigeria twice just over a year ago in British Columbia, winning one and drawing the other.

However, Bev Priestman’s team was handed a timely reminder – if indeed any were needed – that in a tournament such as the World Cup, upsets lurk around every corner. The 26th-ranked New Zealand Football Ferns, the tournament co-host along with Australia, got the event under way in fine style earlier on Thursday, upsetting 1995 Women’s World Cup winner Norway 1-0 to register its first win at a World Cup at the 16th time of asking.

More important to Canada and its aspirations of getting out of Group B, Australia beat Ireland 1-0 in the other game of the opening day. That result means that Canada needs a win against Nigeria to keep pace with the Matildas – as Australia’s women’s team is known – at the top of the group, with the top two teams after the round-robin advancing to the knockout round.

- Paul Attfield

9:05 p.m. ET

Who’s on Canada’s squad?

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Christine Sinclair of Canada during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup match between Netherlands and Canada.SOPA Images/Getty Images

Canada coach Bev Priestman chose her final roster on July 9, acknowledging wins and losses on the injury front. Canada’s 23-player roster is a mix of veterans and new players, with ages ranging from 18 to 40.

Captain Christine Sinclair will be taking part in her sixth World Cup alongside other veterans including Sophie Schmidt, Kadeisha Buchanan, Ashley Lawrence, Allysha Chapman, Adriana Leon, Nichelle Prince, Shelina Zadorsky and Quinn, who goes by one name.

Youngsters on the roster include 18-year-old midfielder Olivia Smith and 19-year-old midfielder Simi Awujo, neither of whom were born when Sinclair scored her first goal for Canada in March, 2000, at the Algarve Cup.

Seventeen of the 23 players were on the 2019 World Cup roster.

9:00 p.m. ET

When is Canada’s first World Cup match and how do I watch it?

Canada’s first game of the World Cup is today (July 20) at 10:30 p.m. ET. The Canadian squad will be up against Nigeria. Canada will play two other games in the group stage: against Ireland on Wednesday, July 26 at 8 a.m. ET and against Australia on Monday, July 31 at 6 a.m.

Canadian fans can watch on TSN, and some matches will be available on CTV. This includes all three of Canada’s group-stage matches. French-language coverage will be on RDS.

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