The Super Falcons of Nigeria have qualified for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup finals after a lone goal by Rasheedat Ajibade steered them 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 as they created chance after chance only to be undone by near misses.
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.
Ajibade, the Atletico Madrid of Spain forward, was named the Woman of the Match.
Super Falcons are the 15th team to qualify for the 9th FIFA Women’s World Cup finals, to be staged in Australia and New Zealand 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 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.