Demola Ojo and Tobi Soniyi
Nigeria’s female football team, the Super Falcons, yesterday defeated hosts Cameroon 1-0 at the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in Yaounde to successfully defend their Africa Women Cup of Nations title.
The victory made it the eighth time the Falcons will win the competition in 10 editions. The Nigerian women have dominated the competition since its inception in 1991, only failing to be champions on two occasions.
Falcons forward Desire Oparanozie scored the winner with barely five minutes, breaking Cameroonian hearts hoping to revenge their 2-0 loss to Nigeria in the final two years ago in Namibia.
President Muhammadu Buhari has congratulated the Falcons on their victory, describing the hard-earned victory over the Indomitable Lionesses as “very sweet and well-deserved.”
He commended the Nigerian women for their “indomitable spirit, resilience and team work” which spurred them to victory in spite of a vociferous home crowd.
The President enjoined other Nigerian sports men and women to emulate the exemplary attitude of the Falcons who placed the interest of the nation above personal interests, while assuring that the Federal Government would not relent in doing its best to promote sports within available resources.
He went further to salute the technical competence of the coaching crew, which enabled the Nigerian players to overcome their hard-fighting opponents throughout the competition.
The President of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), Mr Honour Sirawoo also hailed the Falcons and described the victory as a befitting early Christmas gift to Nigerians, who are beginning to see glory days of Nigerian football in view of the Super Eagles’ recent performance in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
He commended the technical crew led by former Super Falcons captain, Florence Omagbemi, who has made history by becoming the first African female footballer to win the trophy as a player and coach.
According to him, “the Super Falcons have once again brought smiles to the faces of Nigerians with the latest triumph despite several challenges. We expect the Nigeria Football Federation to immediately commence the process of preparing the team adequately for the Women World Cup.”
SWAN under his leadership will continue to advocate for better preparations for all national teams across all sports, he said.
Yesterday’s victory came despite waves of pressure from Cameroon who were looking to win their first African title. The opening exchanges were all about the Cameroonians who attacked relentlessly.
Gabrielle Onguene carved out the first chance of the game when she skipped past three Nigerian players before shooting wide from inside the box.
Nigeria’s best chance in the opening minutes fell to Vittsjo GIK midfielder Ngozi Okobi, who could only fire over on the turn.
Onguene’s pace continued to trouble the Nigerian backline but the Lionness could not make their early attacking play count.
With less than 15 minutes to the break Cameroon had a glorious chance when Madeleine Ngono Mani was left with just Nigeria shot-stopper Jonathan Alaba to beat. The Nigerian goalkeeper did enough to tip away Mani’s attempt before Onome Ebi cleared.
The African champions began the restart on the backfoot as Onguene, Deborah Gaelle Enganamouit, Mani and Co kept pressing play.
Twice Mani came close. First she struck a free kick inches over and then followed up another fine attempt at goal, forcing Jonathan to make a timely save to keep the game scoreless.
Inside the final quarter of an hour in regulation time, Enganamouit then took a pop at Nigeria’s goal, but Jonathan looked untroubled as she kept her cool to gather the ball.
Seven minutes from time, Onguene was played through on goal but she could only squeeze in a tame shot from a rather difficult angle without troubling Jonathan.
Within a minute and out of the blue, Oparanozie dragged the ball past her marker inside the box and then calmly fired it low and left-footed beyond an outstretched Annette Ngo Ndom in Cameroon’s goal.
That was one of the few times the Falcons attacked their hosts in the second half but it bore fruit, leading to a record eight title.