The Super Falcons on Wednesday qualified for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada after beating South Africa 2-1 in one of the semi final matches at the ongoing Africa Women’s Championship in Namibia.
The Falcons also booked a place in the final of the competition as a first half brace from Asisat Oshoala earned the Nigerians the win in their ninth meeting with the Bayana Bayana before a controversial Nompumelelo Nyandeni’s goal reduced the tally.
The meeting, which was a revenge mission for the Falcons – having lost to the South Africans at the same stage two years ago, lived up to its billing as an explosive encounter.
Coach Edwin Okon made five changes to the team which had beaten hosts Namibia in their last group match last Friday.
Tournament’s highest goal scorer, Desire Oparanozie, returned to the starting line-up along with Oshoala, Ngozi Okobi, Halimatu Ayinde and Ebere Ngozi but goalkeeper Ibubeleye Whyte, Francesca Ordega and Ugo Njoku retained their spot in the team.
The South Africans also paraded a strong team as they looked to inflict the second consecutive blow on the six-time champions. Philadelphia Mndaweni replaced first choice Roxanne Barker while veteran forward, Portia Modise also started.
The Nigerians started on the front pedal as they made their intent known from the first blast of the whistle. In the 17th minute, Oshoala forced a save out of Mndaweni after receiving a pass from Ordega but the keeper’s legs came to her rescue.
Mndaweni was again Bayana’s saving grace in the 19th minute when she saved another effort from the menacing Oshoala who had disposed off two defenders after she received a pass from Oparanozie.
The South Africans had their first chance at goal in the 21st minute when Modise shot narrowly wide from a freekick set up by Refiloe Jane.
The Falcons’ pressure eventually yielded a goal in the 38th minute when Oshoala burst into a run and then dribbled two defenders in the Bayana penalty area before placing a low shot which was deflected into the net by defender Noko Matlou.
Seven minutes later, Oshoala doubled the lead with a volley from outside the South African penalty area. Mndaweni had had left her line and the Rivers Angels’ forward caught her off guard with the shot which dropped into the back of the net.
After the break, the South Africans came firing on all cylinders but the Falcons defence and goalkeeper Whyte kept them at bay until the 68th minute when they reduced the tally.
Nyandeni crossed a ball directly at goal from a corner which Onome Ebi tried to head out but the officials adjudged it to have crossed the line.
Okon brought in Perpetua Nkwocha and Esther Sunday in the places of Okobi and Ordega as the South Africans rally to save the game but the Falcons saw the game to the end to book a place in Sunday’s final.