In the first match of Group D, also known as this year's Group of Death, 5th ranked Sweden will face off against the African Women's Champions and 33rd ranked Nigeria in Winnipeg. Pia Sundhage, head coach of Sweden's national team and ex-head coach of the USA national team, has sights set on winning the competition. The Swedes are also tipped as one of the favorites to win the Women's World Cup, but will have to start strong against a tricky Nigeria squad.
The Super Falcons come into the World Cup hoping for a better outcome than 2011, where they were eliminated in the group stage. Unless Nigeria produce a string of decent results, their fate could be the same as last year: Failure to advance into the knockout round.
Nigeria's success in this tournament and against Sweden will be primarily based on the performance of Perpetua Nkwotcha, a 39 year old forward who plays for Swedish side Clemensnäs IF. In 98 appearances for the Super Falcons the striker has scored 80 goals, a 0.81 goal per game average. Nkwocha was African footballer of the year for four years, most recently in 2011.
Nigeria's fate in the tournament relies heavily on the play of their lethal striker who was performed prolifically for the national team. Inexperience may plague the Nigerian team as nineteen of 23 players called up are 24 years of age or younger. Against a veteran Swedish squad full of experience all around the pitch with one of the world's greatest women's coach at the helm, Nigeria will have to play superbly and their star striker needs to have her shooting boots on and be on target on the night.
Six Swedish players have 100 caps or more for country, and one of the six who have over 200 caps: Therese Sjögran. The dynamic midfielder has 21 goals for the Swedish national team and is the primary playmaker in the center of the park. Another notable name is Lotta Schelin, captain of the squad and forward for Olympique Lyon who has 149 appearances and 80 goals for the national team.
In three matches played between the two sides, Sweden leads the series with a 2-1-0 record. Monday evening in Winnipeg will be a difficult task for the Super Falcons as they face one of the top teams in the world: Sweden. Nigeria must win against Sweden to make any mark on this tournament if they want to succeed, as Sweden and the USA are favorites of the group and can easily run away with the top two spots from the get go.