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Nigeria stun World Cup co-hosts Australia, US yet to fire

Nigeria stunned co-hosts Australia 3-2 on Thursday in the biggest shock of the Women’s World Cup so far, while the United States failed to hit top gear in a stalemate with the Netherlands.

Australia’s damaging defeat, having surrendered a 1-0 lead, leaves their last-16 hopes in real danger with one round of games to play in Group B.

Randy Waldrum’s Nigeria and Canada are both on four points from two games and in pole position to make the knockout rounds.

Australia are a point behind and now must beat Olympic champions Canada on Monday otherwise they will be out of their home World Cup.

It had all started so well for the co-hosts in front of an expectant crowd of nearly 50,000 in Brisbane who were there to see the Australians seal a place in the knockout stage.

A concussion to Mary Fowler in training and the continuing absence of captain and talismanic striker Sam Kerr because of a calf injury left Australia badly short of attacking options.

But Emily van Egmond came into the side and she fully justified the decision of coach Tony Gustavsson by scoring the opener in the first minute of first-half injury time, rolling the ball smartly into the net.

She made a beeline for Kerr on the sidelines by way of celebration.

But the lead lasted just five minutes because, in the sixth minute of added time, Uchenna Kanu popped up unmarked at the far post to prod the ball home and silence the vast majority of the crowd.

Defender Osinachi Ohale then pounced from close range with 25 minutes left to nod in from almost right on the goal line.

Things got worse for the Matildas seven minutes later when they made a mess of a routine ball over the top and Barcelona’s Asisat Oshoala kept her head to score from a tight angle.

Alanna Kennedy made it 3-2 in the 10th minute of injury time but Nigeria held on for a famous win.

US yet to click

The United States beat the Netherlands four years ago to retain the World Cup and are now pursuing a third title in a row, something that has never been done before.

But they were far from their best in an entertaining 1-1 draw with the Dutch in front of a crowd of 27,312 in Wellington.

Their bid for a place in the last 16 also goes down to their final group game, against debutants Portugal.

The Netherlands took the lead in the 17th minute with a superb strike from midfielder Jill Roord.

Vlatko Andonovski’s side grew into the game and the Americans struck back just after the hour with a header from skipper Lindsey Horan, moments after she had clashed with her Lyon teammate Danielle van de Donk.

The Americans might have won it after that but the biggest match of the group stages ended in stalemate and neither side is yet assured of a berth in the knockout phase.

The United States face Portugal on Tuesday, the same day the Netherlands play Vietnam.

US coach Andonovski described Horan’s response to the altercation with Van de Donk as a turning point.

“It’s a really good example of the leader that she is. She gets fouled, kicked, hurt and obviously it’s a very difficult moment,” Andonovski said.

“And instead of crying about it, she just goes and makes a statement.”

Portugal defeated Vietnam 2-0 in the other match in Group E on Thursday.

First-half goals by Telma Encarnacao and Kika Nazareth ended Vietnam’s hopes of going any further and left the Portuguese eyeing up a huge upset when they face the holders.

‘Mortal sin’

England are the headline act on Friday when they play Denmark in Sydney.

Denmark coach Lars Sondergaard told his players that it would be “a mortal sin” not to relish playing the European champions.

England’s Lionesses failed to sparkle in beating debutants Haiti 1-0 thanks to a penalty but they are still among the favourites to win the World Cup.

With the majority of the Sydney crowd also likely to be behind Sarina Wiegman’s side, Sondergaard acknowledged that his team were clear underdogs against “superpower” England.

But he said on the eve of the match: “There’s a World Cup every four years, you don’t get many of these opportunities in your career.

“It would be a mortal sin not to enjoy it.”

Also on Friday, Argentina play South Africa and China face Haiti.