• Pinnick praises ‘resilient’ Falcons
• Nigeria, 15th team to qualify for 2023 FIFA WC
By Oviri Kelvin, Sports Editor
Nigeria qualified for the 2023 Women’s FIFA World Cup finals after a lone goal by Rasheedat Ajibade steered the Super Falcons to the semi-finals of the ongoing Women Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco at the expense of Cameroon’s Indomitable Lionesses.
Ngozi Okobi-Okeoghene made a bold run at the Cameroonian defence supported by twists and turns and the ball somehow landed at the feet of gangling Ifeoma Onumonu, who heaved the ball into the box for Ajibade to
nod past Ange Bawu for the only goal of the match in the 57th minute.
The nine-time champions dominated a physical game right from the onset and could have led by at least two goals in the first period only to be undone by near misses. The Trumpet Gathered
In the 7th minute, Onumonu, who scored the first goal in the 2-0 defeat of Botswana in Group C that rejuvenated Nigeria’s campaign following the opening game defeat by South Africa, headed Okobi-Okeoghene’s well-weighted free-kick over the sticks. In the 24th minute, Onumonu and Ucheibe were involved as a melee ensued in the Lionesses’ vital area, but Bawu was up to the task.
The two teams abbreviated each other’s opportunities with very close marking in a turgid second half. However, after Nigeria scored, Gabrielle Onguene lashed at the Nigeria goal but it went far away.
Ajibade’s headed goal, her third of the tournament, took Nigeria to eight goals in the championship with only two conceded – both against South Africa – and their reward is a potentially-explosive semi-final duel against the slick host nation, Morocco.
Meanwhile, President of the Nigeria Football Federation and FIFA Council Member, Mr Amaju Melvin Pinnick has showered praises on the Super Falcons, saying their resilience against the fit-fighting Indomitable Lions reflected the fabled Nigerian spirit.
He said, “I congratulate the girls for a strong performance against another strong team. They showed that truly, Nigeria is the powerhouse of African women’s football. They held firm to victory even in the face of pressure towards the end.
“Their strength and perseverance were highly commendable. They have done very well to qualify for the FIFA World Cup. Now, we can aim for retention of the trophy,” he added.
The Super Falcons have set up a mouth-watering semi-final duel against host nation Morocco, with vintage football expected from both teams who have already qualified for the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Nigeria’s Super Falcons on Thursday night became the 15th team to qualify for the 9th FIFA Women’s World Cup finals, to be staged in Australia and New Zealand from 20th July – 20th August next year.
Hosts Australia (with five venues) and New Zealand (four venues), as well as China, Korea Republic, Philippines, Vietnam, Japan, France, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, United States of America, Morocco and Zambia are the other teams.
The 5th and 6th –placed teams at the ongoing tournament in Morocco will have another shot at qualifying for the World Cup, as they join eight other teams for a Playoff Tournament early next year.
Nigeria is one of only six teams, among them the USA, Germany, Brazil and Japan, to have played in every edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup finals since the championship was launched in China in 1991.
The Atletico Madrid of Spain forward, Ajibade was named the Woman of the Match.
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