There’s a small cadre of women’s players who get mentioned when the topic shifts of best defender in the world. Sweden’s Nilla Fischer is one of them. Physical, intelligent and with a midfielder’s skill (where she used to line up), the 30-year-old was key to Frauen Bundesliga club Wolfsburg’s back-to-back European titles in 2013 and 2014. In terms of stature, regard, leadership qualities, mentality and versatility, she’s a lot like Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany, just slightly older.
Unfortunately on Monday, Fischer exemplified the bad, inconsistent part of Kompany’s reputation, putting in one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen from an elite defender in a Women’s World Cup. And thanks to the Ritalin-fueled tenacity of mine and Miriti Murungi’s Twitter accounts, we can new media the hell out of this shocking performance.
We start in the 50th minute, shortly after the teams returned to the field. Sweden’s up 2-0. Aside from Nigerian promise in the first 45 minutes, the favorites are playing their part. Taking advantage of some terrible corner kick defending, the world’s fifth-ranked team is on track for three points.
But Fischer, who scored Sweden’s second goal, obviously felt the record needed to be corrected. Nigeria didn’t deserve to be two goals down, we assume she said to herself. Because if she did, that would perfectly explain what happen here:
That person Ngozi Okobi turned on? All-world center back Nilla Fischer.
Okay, so one goal. Anybody can make a mistake, right? Even Charlize Theron used to be with Stuart Townsend. We all can’t live our entire lives as Imperator Furiosa!
Unfortunately, three minutes later Nilla got Fischered again, only this time is was Liverpool’s Asisat Oshoala who (and I really hesitate to use this kind of language) did her dirty:
Sweden was dazed and confused, but not for long, eventually taking back the lead at the hour mark. But Fischer, who had been cramping mid-way through the half, still had a little charity left in her, even after being moved into central midfield:
And Fischer’s part?
To be fair (as a good friend pointed out via text), those tweets aren’t clear about Fischer playing in midfield, though you can see by her position that the play starts in front of her new position. But there’s too much space to close between her and Okobi, who was able to turn on a ball from the right, find Francisca Ortega, and end Sweden’s hopes of taking full points from game one.
By that time, Sweden was out of substitutions. When Fischer was cramping, though, head coach Pia Sundhage still and one sub in the bank. Instead of taking one of her defensive anchors off, Sundhage subbed on Emma Berglund for Amanda Ilestedt, justifiably maintaining faith one of her stars:
Nigeria looked very good all game. It almost doubled Sweden’s chances (the last number I saw was 14 to seven), and it showed a plan and talent level to give both the U.S. and Australia trouble. It’s putting the “death” into this Group of Death. But if predictions of Nigerian success were predicting on elite players having some of the worst days of their career, the Super Falcons probably aren’t as dangerous as they appear.
Fischer’s had her bad days, but this is probably among her worst. If one of the world’s best defenders plays even slightly better, Group D’s co-favorites would be on three points going into it’s Friday showdown against the United States.