|South Africa’s plarers celebrate first ever World Cup qualification|
By Ekikere Udofia
Nigeria go head to head with South Africa in the final of the Africa Women Cup of Nations on Saturday in Accra but it is the war of words between both sides that has taken center stage.
To get to the final, Nigeria beat Cameroon 4-2 via penalty shootouts after full and extra time ended 0-0 while South Africa beat Mali in the other semifinal.
Regarding the final match, Super Falcon’s attacker, Asisat Oshoala said, Nigeria would come out tops even though nothing stops the South Africans from winning.
“When a Champion meets a Champion, it’s the grass that suffers. Any team can beat Nigeria but we always win,” Oshoala said.
South African attacker and top scorer in the championships, Chrestinah Kgatlana is optimistic that they will keep their heads up in the final.
“We face Nigeria again and they’re going to show their heads up as well we will show ours,” Kgatlana said.
|Hero of Nigeria’s Semi final win, Tochukwu Oluehi|
Nigeria’s coach, Thomas Dennerby harped on the attacking play of his team and was looking beyond the AWCON final, but the World Cup in France in 2019.
“For next game and the World Cup, we need to improve our attacking play,” DENNERBY said.
But the ticket to the AWCON final and World Cup was tense on Tuesday in Accra and Cape Coast.
In the first semifinal game between Nigeria and Cameroon, it was termed a “proper final game” by many fans at the Accra sports stadium as the two teams didn’t give anything to chance.
True to the words of the Cameroonian Coach Joseph Ndoko, it was a “revenge mission” which unfortunately turned out to be “mission impossible” for the 2016 AWCON finalists.
Not every edition gets to serve as a yardstick for qualification to the Women’s World Cup but this was a special one to the defending champions Nigeria who have qualified for every edition since its inception in 1991.
For the Lionesses they still need to have a taste of the World scene as they’ve had only such opportunity once.
A second trial would not be a bad one for them, no wonder they fought so hard for one hundred and twenty minutes, giving no space to the Falcons.
Physicality, pace and the fighting spirit could have fetched them a perfect revenge script on the night but a much more experience side as Nigeria were able to contain the situation, keeping the score line goalless in the end.
Penalties as they usually say is a game of luck but Onome Ebi, Rasheedat Ajibade, Asisat Oshoala and rock solid defender Ngozi Ebere ensured the Falcons stayed in, scoring their spot kicks amidst the pressure mounted on them as defending champions by the Cameroonians.
Unfortunately the Lionesses were tearful afterwards as Deborah Enganamouit was the first culprit. Her spot kick was stopped by Tochukwu Oluehi in Nigeria’s goal.
For Marine Awona, her spot kick hit the woodwork though it would have been the same case as Enganamouit as Oluehi moved in the right direction.
The misses put the Lionesses two goals behind Nigeria as Njoya Ajara and Raissa Feudjio had earlier gotten the first two spot kicks right for Cameroon.
The game eventually ended 4-2 at the end of the shoot outs.
Coach Joseph Ndoko pointed out that he missed the services of striker Michaela Anam who he was hoping would debut for his team but her nationality switch is yet to be approved by FIFA having been born in the United States.
For the second “champions” game at the Cape Coast Stadium, it did live up to the predictions of many as the South Africans defeated Mali 2-0 confirming their participation at the world stage next year in France.
Many would say that game came easy for the South Africans but for a Malian team debuting at this stage of the tournament, it’s indeed an accolade they sure will keep in mind going into the third place match against Cameroon on Friday.
For South Africa’s Chrestinah Thembi Kgatlana, it is her moment as she scored the first goal in that game ensuring she extends her lead on the goal scorers chart (now 5 goals).
With Nigeria and South Africa picking the World cup tickets, one spot is still left for the CAF zone.
The decider will be in the third place match on Friday at the Cape Coast stadium between Mali and Cameroon, 4pm local time.
The Final will be same time on Saturday between Nigeria and South Africa.