Nigeria eyes ticket to 2023 FIFA World Cup
African champions, Super Falcons of Nigeria, believe they will celebrate another FIFA Women’s World Cup ticket today after a quarterfinal clash with their rival, Lionesses of Cameroon, in Casablanca. A semifinal placing guarantees a place in Australia and New Zealand next year.
All four teams that make the semifinals at the ongoing African Women’s Championship in Morocco will pick automatic tickets for the Women’s World Cup, with the team adjudged to have finished fifth presented with another chance for a shot at a playoff tournament next year.
In 2014 in Windhoek, Namibia, the Falcons ran away 2-0 winners to lift the trophy for the seventh time.
In 2016, in Yaoundé, the Lionesses suffered heartbreak in front of their cheering fans, including President Paul Biya, when Desire Oparanozie scored a late goal to hand the trophy to Nigeria for the eighth time.
Four years ago, in Accra, both teams also met in the semifinal stage. It was a tough duel that ended 0-0 after regulation and extra time, but the Falcons again prevailed 4-2 after a penalty shoot-out on the way to their ninth title.
Cameroon will come into today’s encounter with the mentality of the yam pounder, knowing they have always been second best to Nigeria at this level, and a third consecutive appearance at the FIFA World Cup will certainly appeal to the Indomitable Lionesses.
A 1-2 defeat at the hands of South Africa’s Banyana Banyana in their opening match of Group C last week Monday, somewhat dimmed the shine of the Super Falcons, but they rose stoutly to the occasion and won their other two matches against Botswana and Burundi with six points and six goals advantage shooting them to the last eight.
Cameroon also started somewhat slowly, drawing with Zambia, but they picked up impressively and their reward is what is actually the most anticipated quarterfinal tie at this tournament.
Both countries flew Africa’s flag at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup finals in Canada, and at the last edition in France three years ago, but Nigeria are untouchable, being one of only six countries on the planet to have participated in all eight editions of the quadrennial global showpiece.
“We are ready to face Cameroun,” said Nigeria coach Randy Waldrum, after his Super Falcons arrived in Morocco’s commercial and economic capital, Casablanca, on Monday ahead of today’s encounter.
Today’s spectacle in Casablanca is expected to be explosive, but Nigeria captain Onome Ebi says the Falcons are up for the challenge.
“Of course, we know what to expect. The Cameroonians also want to go to the World Cup. But we have never missed the World Cup and we won’t start now. Our eyes are fully focused on Australia and New Zealand 2023, and then we can start talking about the trophy,” she said.
wards Rasheedat Ajibade and Uchenna Kanu, on two goals each, are expected to start against Cameroon, with Coach Waldrum also expected to keep faith with most of the crew that decimated Burundi in Rabat on Sunday night.