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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

Africa exceed expectations with incredible run at Women’s World Cup

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Africa’s run at the Women’s World Cup has been nothing short of extraordinary at the end of the group phase on Thursday as debutants Morocco joined Nigeria and South Africa in the last 16.

Morocco had been thrashed 6-0 by twice champions Germany in their opening match of the finals but bounced back to beat South Korea and Colombia to secure their passage into the knockout stage of the tournament.

Their surprise run of results led to the group stage elimination of the highly fancied Germans in one of the biggest shocks of the tournament.

The upset came some 24 hours after South Africa had snatched a dramatic stoppage time winner to oust Italy, and also after Nigeria had advanced from Group B following two draws and a win over co-hosts Australia.

Even Zambia, who had been eliminated after two successive five-goal thrashings, were able to depart with a win, overcoming Costa Rica in their last group game.

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Africa’s chances of getting a team through to the knockout phase were always going to be better with the expansion of the finals’ field to 32 teams and the continent’s representation increased to four.

But even then, there was little expectation for the quartet of African teams as they travelled to Australia and New Zealand.

Nigeria have not missed out of any of the nine Women’s World Cups but their dominance in Africa had been ended as they struggled at last year’s Africa Women’s Cup of Nations and only finished fourth.

South Africa won the continental title but their preparations were dogged by arguments over money as the players went on strike last month.

As for Morocco, the first Arab nation to compete, they looked out of the depth as they produced a horror defensive display and looked every bit the 70 places they were ranked below Germany in a rude World Cup welcome.

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RESOLVE

But they showed inspiring resolve to come back and win a top two place in Group H, albeit with some assistance as Germany failed to beat South Korea on Thursday.

“You’ve always got to factor in the magic of the World Cup,” their coach Reynald Pedros had predicted before the game.

Morocco shook up the traditional order when finishing fourth in Qatar last December in Africa’s best showing at the men’s World Cup and the women now have a chance to also break new ground.

No African team has ever won a knockout game at a previous Women’s World Cup but there will be high hopes now that the continent’s mazy run can continue, even if the odds are stacked against them.

In the last 16, South Africa face the Netherlands, Morocco will be up against France while Nigeria will take on Euro 2022 champions England.

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“They’ve shown that nothing can stop them if they put their mind to it and they play for each other,” South Africa coach Desire Ellis said of her players ahead of Sunday’s tie in Sydney against the in-form Netherlands.

-Reuters

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

Dominican Republic 2024:Flamingos land in the Dominican Republic!

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Nigeria’s U17 girls, Flamingos, have secured their ticket to the 8th FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup finals to be staged in the Dominican Republic later this year, after a 2-0 defeat of their Liberian counterparts at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja on Friday.

Victory took the aggregate tally to 6-1 in favour of Nigeria, with extraordinary poacher Harmony Chidi setting a record of 13 goals in a qualifying series that will be difficult to equal in years to come. She had 11 goals before kick-off, but netted the two goals of the evening to take Nigeria’s total of the series to a whopping 25. Central African Republic fell by a dozen goals while Burkina Faso fell 1-7 on aggregate.

Her first came after only four minutes when she sped past the Liberian defence to toe-poke the ball beyond the flailing arms of goalkeeper Makula Konneh from a cross by Shakirat Moshood.

A goal feast was expected, but this did not happen, as Peace Effiong had a close call in the 17th and Moshood rocked the crossbar a minute after from 20 yards. Moshood also missed from close range with 10 minutes left of the first half.

In the 56th minute, Moshood blasted beyond the goalpost when faced with Konneh, but Harmony Chidi made sure of her brace seven minutes later when she lashed the ball beyond Konneh’s reach as Nigeria seized the ball from a defensive slip-up by the visitors.

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The 8th FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup finals will be staged in the cities of Santiago de los Caballeros and Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, 16th October – 3rd November.

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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

‘It shall be showers of goals’, vows Flamingos ahead of Liberia clash

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Head Coach Bankole Olowookere is confident that the Nigeria U17 girls, Flamingos, will not take their feet off the pedal when they take on their Liberian counterparts in a FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup final qualifying match in Abuja on Friday.

“We are battle-ready for the match on Friday. The girls are raring to go because they want to go to the World Cup. They are already dreaming of flying to the Dominican Republic.

“There is so much excitement in camp, and they are self-assured. However, I have warned them that it is never over until it is over. There should be no display of over-confidence on the pitch. We must approach the match like the first leg was a drawn game.”

Nigeria won the first leg 4-1 in Monrovia on Sunday, with 11-goal qualifying series revelation Harmony Chidi, Shakirat Moshood, Peace Effiong and substitute Blessing Ifitezue banging in the goals for the Flamingos. The hosts got their consolation goal off a penalty awarded with five minutes left of the encounter at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville.

The Flamingos will take part in the FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup for the seventh time once they cross Friday’s hurdle.

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They featured at the inaugural edition in New Zealand in 2008, and subsequently at Trinidad and Tobago 2010, Azerbaijan 2012, Costa Rica 2014, Jordan 2016 and India 2022, where they won the bronze medals.  

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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

Flamingos hammer hosts Liberia 4-1, put one leg in World Cup finals

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FIFA World Cup bronze medallists Nigeria routed Liberia 4-1 in a fast-paced FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup final qualifying round, first leg encounter in Monrovia on Sunday.

The Flamingos got off to a pretty quick start at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex at the Paynesville, but the Liberian girls, who shocked Senegal on the away-goal rule to reach this final round, warded off the early threats.

Nigeria got the ball into the net after 14 minutes, but Chadian referee Lare Lamngar ruled it off. Not to be deterred or discouraged, the Flamingos poured forward once again, and in the 19th minute, Shakirat Moshood opened the scoring from a sweet solo run.

Peace Effiong, who got a brace in the 6-0 defeat of Burkina Faso at the MKO Abiola National Stadium last month, scored in the 29th minute to put a wedge of respect between the two teams.

Usual suspect Harmony Chidi, scorer of six of the 12 goals that sank the Central African Republic, and who equally netted four in the 7-1 dismissal of Burkina Faso in the last round, headed home her 11th goal of the qualifying series in the 36th minute to put daylight between both teams.

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On resumption, Nigeria continued to dominate, and substitute Blessing Ifitezue made it four with 16 minutes left.

Liberia scored a consolation goal with five minutes left, from the penalty spot, through Yassah Gwaikolo, after substitute Onyedikachi Ekezie was adjudged to have committed a foul in the area.

The Flamingos will return to Nigeria on Tuesday, and immediately commence preparations for the return leg encounter scheduled for Friday at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja.

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