Eight-time champions Nigeria has proven once more they are in the top class of women’s soccer in Africa.
After relinquishing the crown two years ago to Equatorial Guinea, which failed to qualify for this year’s regional championship, the West Africans shut out Cameroon 2-0 in last Saturday’s final to reclaim the title.
Both finalists along with Ivory Coast, which defeated South Africa 1-0 in the third-place play-off fixture, will represent Africa in next year’s International Soccer Federation (FIFA) World Cup in Canada.
A total of eight teams competed in the African Women’s tournament in Namibia.
On the way to the final, Nigeria finished at the top of its group with a perfect record by shutting out Ivory Coast 2-0, Zambia 6-0, Namibia 2-0 and booked a spot in the final with a 2-1 victory over the South Africans.
Nigerian coach, Edwin Okon, was impressed with his team, which conceded just one goal while scoring 14.
“We could not afford to lose, so from the outset our strategy was to take every team as they came,” he said. “We lost to Cameroon in the third-place match in Equatorial Guinea in 2012 and we wanted to avenge that result.”
The win over Cameroon was Nigeria’s 36th in 45 African Women’s championship contests since the tournament started in 1991.
Cameroon, which topped its group after 1-0 and 2-0 wins over South Africa and Algeria, respectively and a 1-0 loss to Ghana, advanced to the final with a 2-1 win over Ivory Coast. Both Cameroon and Ivory Coast will be making their first World Cup appearances.
“Our first goal was to qualify for the World Cup and we have achieved that,” said Cameroon’s coach, Ngachu Enow.
Nigerian striker, Asisat Oshoala, the most valuable player in this summer’s FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Canada, captured the Golden Ball Award for being the competition’s best player.
Meanwhile, Trinidad & Tobago fell 4-2 to Mexico in overtime in the third-place Confederation of North, Central American & Caribbean Associations of Soccer (CONCACAF) playoff contest in Philadelphia last Sunday.
The twin-island republic can still qualify for the World Cup when they engage Ecuador in a home and away series next month. The first leg match takes place in Ecuador on November 8 and the return game will be played in Port-of-Spain on December 2.
The United States clinched its seventh regional championship with a convincing 6-0 victory over Costa Rica. The finalists, along with Mexico have booked their World Cup tickets.
The other qualifiers so far are Australia, China, Japan, Korea Republic, Thailand, England, France, Germany, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Brazil and Colombia.
The World Cup draw will be held on December 6 and the seventh FIFA Women’s World Cup will take place from June 6 to July 5 in Montreal, Edmonton, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Moncton and Ottawa.