Africa rejoices as Cameroon, Nigeria advance to World Cup knockout round in France

Chibuogwu Nnadiegbulam, AIPS Young Reporter, Nigeria
ABUJA, June 20, 2019 – Seven minutes extra time felt like eternity for the Super Falcons of Nigeria and their fans on Thursday as they sat on the edge of their seats, hoping and praying that Thailand would not concede a third goal in their final Group F game against Chile at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019.

Since losing 1-0 to France in Group A as a result of Wendie Renard’s controversial late re-taken penalty – in spite of a brave performance – on Monday, Nigeria have had to wait three days with hearts in mouths to learn their fate, alternating between progress and elimination as they supported any team that could do them a favour.

In the end, it took a breathtaking comeback by Argentina against Scotland – including a last minute re-taken penalty – and an improved display by Thailand against Chile – coupled withFrancisca Lara’s agonizing penalty miss that could have sealed a last 16 place for the South Americans – for the Super Falcons to finally progress as the last of the best third-place teams.

So for the first time ever, Africa will be represented by more than one team in the knockout round of a FIFA Women’s World Cup. Not just that. It is also the first time that two African teams have recorded wins in a single Women’s World Cup. The tears of joy and overwhelming celebrations that have followed these achievements cannot be described.

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Ann Odong, FIFA

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The moment the @NGSuper_Falcons found out they had progressed out of the Group Stage // //

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Earlier on Thursday, Cameroon had booked their place in the Round of 16 in dramatic fashion with Ajara Nchout scoring an injury-time winner to secure a 2-1 victory over New Zealand. This was after Nchout’s first goal was cancelled by an Aurelle Awona own goal and with 10 minutes remaining it looked like Yaounde beckoned.

After the game, Nchout, who was named Player of the Match, said: “I’m very happy. I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time. We wanted to do our side proud, and prove that we are the Lionesses and we deserve to be here.”

While the Super Falcons are making it out of the group stage for the first time in 20 long years, their West African neighbours, the Indomitable Lionesses are progressing to the knockout round for the second time in a row. In 1999, when there were just 16 participating teams at the global showpiece, Nigeria with two group stage victories reached the quarter-final. Then in 2015, Cameroon recorded the same number of wins to easily qualify for the last 16.

Having two out of three African teams progress from the group stage in a single World Cup is a deserving reward for the better preparations they had prior to France 2019. A notable improvement from what was obtainable in the past. One can only hope that things get better from here in terms of support for women’s football in Africa – from the federations to the fans.

Prior to Nigeria’s game against France, Coach Thomas Dennerby emphasised on the need to ensure the proper development of women’s football from the grassroots in Africa.

“First of all I can say that there is a lot of talented players, really talented players. In the best of words maybe I want us to start a little bit earlier with younger players to have a good step of education for them so they are almost ready when they arrive to the senior team and so on but if you look at the continent, I think all the teams are working very hard now. It’s not easy to beat any African team.”

Nigeria face Germany on Saturday, while Cameroon go head to head with England as they look to beat the odds and secure quarter-final places at the ongoing FIFA Women’s World Cup, France 2019.

Africa’s victories at the FIFA Women’s World Cup

1991
No win for Nigeria

1995
No win for Nigeria

1999
Two wins for Nigeria: North Korea 1-2 Nigeria; Nigeria 2-0 Denmark
No win for Ghana

2003
One win for Ghana: Ghana 2-1 Australia
No win for Nigeria

2007
No win for Nigeria
No win for Ghana

2011
One win for Nigeria: Canada 0-1 Nigeria
No win for Equatorial Guinea

2015
Two wins for Cameroon: Cameroon 6-0 Ecuador; Switzerland 1-2 Cameroon
No win for Ivory Coast
No win for Nigeria

2019
One win for Nigeria: Nigeria 2-0 South Korea
One win for Cameroon: Cameroon 2-1 New Zealand
No win for South Africa

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