By Samindra Kunti
December 3 – Nigeria retained their stranglehold on African women’s football, winning a ninth Africa Cup of Nations with 4-3 penalty shoot-out win against South Africa in the final. In the third-place playoff, Cameroon claimed Africa’s last ticket for next year’s Women’s World Cup in France.
In the Ghanaian capital the final turned into a stalemate with no goals inside 120 minutes of football. In the group stages the South Africans had defeated Nigeria 1-0, but there was to be no repeat of those heroics.
In the first half Banyana Banyana played with the most attacking intent, but Nigeria’s defense held firm. The Nigerians showed more skill over the 90 minutes, but struggled to unsettle South Africa’s organization. With extra-time goalless, the match went to penalties where Nigeria prevailed 4-3 to register a ninth tournament win out of eleven.
“I don’t think there was any fault in our game,” said South Africa’s captain Janine Van Wyk. “Obviously, you win some you lose some. Personally, I still maintain that South Africa did not lose a game in this tournament.
“We lost the final on penalties which was really unfair to some extent. But for us, I think we have really played extremely well throughout this tournament.”
South Africa achieved their tournament’s goal of qualifying for the World Cup. They will debut in France, alongside Scotland, Chile and Jamaica.
Cameroon snapped up the last African ticket for the finals in France by defeating Mali 4-2 in the third-place playoff in Cape Coast on Friday. The runners-up of the 2016 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations had fallen short in the semi-finals, but came good against Mali to run out easy winners and claim their World Cup berth.
At the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada, Cameroon were the only African team to progress from the group stages before falling to China in the round of 16, 1-0. They will be hoping for a favourable draw next Saturday in Paris when all 24 participants of the 2019 Women’s World Cup will learn their fate.
On Saturday New Zealand completed that 24-team line-up. The Kiwis defeated Fiji 8-0 to retain the OFC Nations Cup and seal the region’s ticket for the finals.
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1550920903labto1550920903ofdlr1550920903owedi1550920903sni@o1550920903fni1550920903