Former Super Falcons stars are rooting for the current set to outshine European champions, England, when they clash on Monday in Brisbane, in one of the round of 16 matches at the ongoing Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, The PUNCH reports.

The Lionesses set up the meeting with the Falcons on Tuesday after thrashing China 6-1 in Adelaide to top Group D with a 100 per cent record, while the Nigerians finished second in Group B. Despite starting their campaign positively, Nigeria missed the chance to top their group, no thanks to a goalless draw against Ireland on Monday.

Monday’s meeting will be the fourth meeting of both sides and second at the World Cup. England beat the Falcons 3-2 in their first meeting at the 1995 World Cup but Nigeria have triumphed in the other two games, pipping the English 1-0 on July 23, 2002, then again by a more comfortable 3-0 on April 22, 2004 in friendlies.

Eleven-time African champions Nigeria, alongside Brazil, Germany, Japan, Norway, Sweden and the United States belong to the exclusive club of countries  that have attended every Women’s World Cup since the event was first held in 1991.

However, the ruthless form of the Lionesses has cast a doubt on the ability of the Falcons to tame the English side, but while many Nigerians feel Randy Waldrum’s side could have avoided England, former Falcons defender, Kikelomo Ajayi, is optimistic that Nigeria can bank on their superior head-to-head record against England.

“This is a mouth-watering clash and a big test for the Super Falcons at the 2023 World Cup,” Ajayi told our correspondent.

“England has great attacking prowess, but the Falcons should be more focused, determined and work on the opponents’ key players. I know some football pundits will tip England as favourites to overcome Nigeria, but this is the kind of game that will spark the Falcons players up and give them the extra push to defeat England.”

Chelsea forward Lauren James starred in England’s 6-1 win over China. As Nigerians are touting her to prove decisive, former midfielder Maureen Mmadu, believes the Falcons also have players they can bank on as well.

“The way we are talking about them is the way they are talking about us as well. I don’t think they will put two players to mark our best players like Assist Oshoala and others, so why should we do the same? I don’t think the England team are better than Australia. We have to defend well and attack together. I see them going far if they concentrate,” Mmadu said.

Atlanta 1996 Olympic gold medallist, Chioma Ajunwa, a member of the Falcons at the maiden Women’s World Cup in 1991, also said the team must be clinical against the Lionesses.

“We should take our chances because we ought to beat Ireland. If I were the coach, I would start the three substitutes in the Ireland game against England. It doesn’t matter when they bring Oshoala in, when she came in against Australia, we saw what happened. So, I believe she can still make a difference from the bench.”

Former striker, Stella Mbachu, also downplayed the pedigree of the European champions, noting that the Falcons were the least ranked team in Group B but progressed at the expense of Olympic champions Canada.

“We should play as usual, no need to tense the match up by telling them to do what you have not been doing before. They should relax and play the normal game by marking, passing very well, shooting when necessary, crossing when needed, and go into the box when they must. With determination, I know they can beat England.”

Nigeria will file out against England at Lang Park in Brisbane by 8:30am on Monday.

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