Nigeria’s Super Falcons are in a confident mood as they prepare for a quarter-final clash with Cameroon at the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in Casablanca.
Victory over the Indomitable Lionesses will secure a World Cup ticket to Australia & New Zealand next year and coach Randy Waldrum’s team believe they will celebrate another qualification.
Semi-finalists at the ongoing continental championship in Morocco would have picked 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.
A 1-2 defeat to South Africa’s Banyana Banyana in their opening match of Group C on Monday last week dimmed the shine of the Super Falcons, but they bounced back and won their other two matches with six points and six goals advantage to advance to the last eight.
Cameroon also had a shaky start, recording a goalless draw with Zambia in their opening match, but they picked up impressively and their reward is the most anticipated quarter-final tie at this tournament.
Nigeria and Cameroon represented Africa at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup finals in Canada and at the last edition in France three years ago, but Nigeria are the untouchables, 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 Cameroon,” said Nigeria coach Randy Waldrum, after his Super Falcons arrived in Morocco’s commercial and economic capital, Casablanca on Monday ahead of Thursday’s encounter.
Thursday’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 & New Zealand, and then we can start talking about the trophy.”
Both countries contested the final matches of the 2014 and 2016 Women AFCON.
In 2014 in Windhoek, Namibia, the Falcons ran away 2-0 winners to lift the trophy for the seventh time. In 2016 in Yaounde, the Lionesses suffered heartbreak in front of their cheering fans when Desire Oparanozie scored a late goal to give Nigeria the trophy for the eighth time.
Four years ago, in Accra, both teams also met in the semi-final 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.