Super Falcons defender Ashleigh Plumptre tells ‘TANA AIYEJINA the team’s defeat of co-hosts Australia at the ongoing Women’s World Cup is one of the highlights of her career

Congrats on this great feat beating co-hosts Australia. What does this win mean for you and the team?

In regards to this question, obviously beating the hosts was a very special moment for all of us. I think we went into the game as underdogs. We knew we had a point to prove, we knew we were playing against the fans and everybody that is supporting the host country. I think we stuck to the game plan very well, and it just goes to show that when we all come together very well, these are the things that we can produce. So, it means a lot for us and everybody who has been supporting us so far.

Would you say this is your greatest moment or win so far as a footballer?

The game against Australia is definitely one of the greatest moments for me as a footballer. Just being here at the World Cup in general is huge for me, and to be able to get that kind of result against that many fans is massive. I think it was a bitter pill to swallow when we were in Morocco (2022 WAFCON) and we lost to the hosts there on penalties, so it was almost like redemption in a way when we got to beat Australia.

You played a major role in the game, defending effectively with your teammates, especially in the first half. How did you feel after the Aussies scored just before the break?

It was obviously a tough time to concede the goal, right before halftime, but I felt as though we were all still very positive, and defensively we felt secure. The fact that we got the goal right before halftime, after their goal, just shows that we have got so much belief, there was no moment when we felt we could not come back from it.

What did you girls tell yourselves that led to that immediate response to Uchenna Kanu’s equaliser?

I think the one thing that we spoke about when we conceded was trying to compete more for the first and second balls. I think Australia won more than us at that point, and we knew that kind of led to their first goal, so we wanted to be more competitive in winning our duels, and that resulted in not just winning defensive duels, but also winning attacking duels, which led to the goal that Uchenna (Kanu) scored.

What was going through your mind, while on the bench, when the Australians scored their second goal in added time?

Yeah, when they scored in the late minutes of extra time, like 10 minutes into added time. It was obviously stressful, because then you always get nervous, and they will have the momentum to keep pushing forward. It was very nerve-wracking being on the sidelines knowing that it was 3-2. I did have full faith in the team that we would be able to see it through, and we did.

Falcons play Ireland next to secure a spot in the next round. How is the team looking forward to the game?

I think when I saw that Ireland was in our group, it was a game that I just knew was going to be a very tough fight. I think Ireland are similar to us in terms of the way that they are set up, and I think their passion, and their determination is very similar to us as well. So, I predict it is going to be a very competitive match, and I know even though they are out of the tournament, they’ll feel like they have nothing to lose, and they will also want to get something from the game, knowing that they’ll go home with some kind of result from their first World Cup. So, it is not a game that we should take lightly. Obviously, we have enjoyed beating Australia, but then the focus turns to Ireland and we prepare for that, like we would for any other game.

wo-time Super Eagles coach Adegboye Onigbinde has described the goal-scoring ability of Nigerian football legend Teslim ‘Thunder’ Balogun as “unforgettable,” as the family marks his 51st memorial anniversary Sunday (today).

Onigbinde said the best goals he had seen were the ones scored by Balogun.

“One of these goals was scored by ‘Thunder’ Balogun at the Olubadan Stadium in 1968 in the match between the Nigerian national team, then known as the UK Tourists, and England.

Onigbinde said, “The English players had garnered some vital information about the deadly strikes of Balogun and close marked him each time he gained possession, to prevent him from wreaking havoc on their team.

“After not allowing him play freely for most parts of the game, ‘Thunder’ changed his attacking play, which was difficult for the English players to understand. He eventually gave them the biggest shock of their lives, as they were beaten to their strategies.

“Balogun received a pass just outside the English team’s penalty box, and with his back to goal, he flicked the ball with a sensational drive with so much power. The strike went straight to the far angle of the goal post. The English goalkeeper followed the ball and dived full length to stop it from going to the net, but his timing was not fast enough to stop the goal-bound strike because he never expected such a strike from a player with his back t the post. It was a fantastic goal which completely beat the goalkeeper.

 “It’s was a goal I will never forget in my life, because i know other players will be looking for the opportunity to turn to see the position of the goalkeeper to pick his angle before shooting, but ‘Thunder’ Balogun’s brilliance was too quick for him to plan saving the ball from going into the net. It was an unforgettable moment and it is indelible 51 years in mind.”

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