After an ongoing pay scandal hovered over the squad before the tournament, Nigeria has qualified for the Round of 16 at the World Cup.
Nigeria advanced with a scoreless draw against the Republic of Ireland on Monday to finish second in Group B with 5 points, ahead of Canada and one point behind Australia.
The person at the helm of Nigeria’s underdog run has been University of Pittsburgh women’s soccer head coach Randy Waldrum, who shed light on the controversial pay dispute earlier this month.
According to Waldrum, he was owed wages from the last seven months and some of the players hadn’t been paid in two years. Waldrum called on the Nigerian Football Federation to take accountability.
The NFF in turn called Waldrum an “incompetent loudmouth.” Media reports from Nigeria before the tournament said the team considered boycotting the World Cup, but nothing came to fruition.
Instead, Nigeria’s had its second consecutive Round of 16 qualification − the best stretch in its women’s World Cup history − in one of the toughest groups. Nigeria’s best finish was reaching the quarterfinals in the 1999 World Cup.
Group B included the reigning Olympic gold medalists Canada and No. 10 rated Australia, the co-hosts of the tournament. Nigeria, at No. 40, was the lowest rated team in the group, but defeated Australia 3-2 then drew the other two games to advance.
Nigeria will face the winner of Group D next Monday. England is currently first at 6 points, but could fall out of the top spot. It plays against China on Tuesday, which is tied for second place.