Women World Cup: Falcons coach confident of team's chances vs Swedish team

By The Rainbow

Little more than a day before Winnipeg's first FIFA Women's World Cup match kicks off, Team Nigeria's coach insisted his team knows little about who they'll face on the pitch.

Maybe it was a joke, but if it was, Edwin Okon was sticking to it, as he met the media in the stadium's basement press conference bunker on Sunday afternoon. On Monday, they'll open their World Cup – and Winnipeg's – by squaring off in a 3 p.m. match against Sweden, the opening tilt of a double-header that wraps up when Australia takes on the titan United States.

The Swedish team had delivered their pre-match media duties earlier, before hitting the field to train for Monday afternoon's match. Then, Team Sweden coach Pia Sundhage said she'd had trouble scraping up film on the 33rd ranked Nigerian team, who most observers position as a long shot to make it out of Group D – but no worries, Sundhage added, they had a lot of confidence in their scouting team.

So an hour later, when it was Team Nigeria's turn to face the cameras, a reporter with Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet figured he'd put a similar question to Okon. “Can you tell me about the Swedish team, what you know about them?” Kristoffer Bergstrom asked.

“I know nothing about the Swedish,” the head coach replied.

“Yes… nothing,” Okon insisted, as media from around the world issued up a curious giggle.

But though a puzzled Bergstrom replied that he didn't believe it, both the coach and Super Falcons captain Evelyn Nwabuoku stuck to their guns: they don't know anything about fifth-ranked Sweden, nuh-uh, and that's just part of their plan. “Sweden has been in successful in the past, but that's got nothing to do with the present,” Nwabuoku said, a minute later. “With due respect to them, for all they have achieved, I think football is supposed to be played on the field. And that's what we'll do tomorrow.”

Well, this much is for sure: the world is in Winnipeg, now, and the whole Women's World Cup vision here is starting to feel real. On Sunday, media from around the world buzzed around the stadium hallways, flashing accreditation from outlets from Japan to England. Questions echoed in a symphony of accents, including from a Fox Sports crew with slick American TV diction; languages intermingled in the halls. It's time.

Meanwhile, for Swedish coach Sundhage, what happens on Monday is more than just their first game of the tournament. It will also mark the first time that Sundhage, a 55-year-old legend and Swedish hall of famer, will coach under her own country's flag at a Women's World Cup. “That is something special,” agreed Sundhage, who previously coached the American squad. “I'm really proud of the fact that I have two Swedish players next to me. Hopefully we can put the team together, and play some really great football.”

winnipeg free press
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