The United States women's soccer team next faces Nigeria as the first round of the Women's World Cup continues. The U.S. women thrashed Nigeria 7-1 in the first round of the 1999 tournament. But the win was not as easy as the score might indicate. The game was a brutal display of hard hits, tackles, and bruising physical play as Nigeria's Super Falcons committed 29 fouls compared to just three for the United States.
U.S. coach April Heinrichs says playing Nigeria is difficult in part because their game is different from most teams. "Nigeria, a team we played in 1999, a team we played in 2000. A team that is radically different from 90-percent of the games we will play," she says. "We have played European teams. We have played China quite a bit."
Nigeria uses a so-called bunker defense. Nigeria will tend to put all of their players except a lone striker within 25-meters of their goal to prevent a scoring threat. Nigeria then goes on offense by launching long balls to a fast running player or rely on a quick, well timed counter-attack. Heinrichs says this can pose a challenge.
"Nigeria is a team that has athleticism that is unheard of in the women's game," she says. "You just do not see it very regularly. So it is unsettling to play against their athleticism. It is unsettling to play also against their radically different style."
After beating Sweden, 3-1 on Sunday, the U.S. women are hoping to avoid injuries against Nigeria and earn more points before facing North Korea in the last of their opening round games.