When the World Cup draw was made, Group D was the obvious group of death, but not necessarily because of Nigeria. They were the African champions and the best team from their pot, sure, but it was a mostly irrelevant pot if we're being entirely honest. While Nigeria has some serious talent and looks to be on the path to becoming a World Cup contender in the future, they aren't quite there yet and weren't supposed to be able to contend with Sweden and the United States.
But Sweden (and the rest of the world) got a serious wake-up call on Monday, when the Super Falcons gave them everything they could handle in their World Cup opener. Nigeria snagged an impressive 3-3 draw, and would have won if not for a couple of lucky set piece goals by the Swedes that sent them into halftime up 2-0.
Sweden were dominated for huge sections of this game. Nigeria attacker Asisat Oshoala was undoubtedly the best player on the pitch for either side, setting up numerous chances for her teammates and herself, and scoring this fantastic individual effort to level the score at 2-2.
Despite that goal, it looked like it wasn't Nigeria's day. Linda Sembrant finished off a gorgeous team attack by Sweden in the 60th minute, giving them the lead again. But Nigeria fought back a second time with an equalizer scored by Francisca Ordega, assisted by Ngozi Okobi -- who scored the first Nigeria goal -- with a spectacular through ball.
The United States and Australia can't assume they're going to get three points from their matches against Nigeria anymore. This is a real group of death, with four teams good enough to win a knockout stage game. Even if Nigeria didn't quite get the win they deserved, this was a turning point for them. They're clearly the real deal.