Nigeria kept up their sequence of having qualified for every Fifa Women’s World Cup as they edged Cameroon 1-0 at the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in Casablanca on Thursday.
Rasheedat Ajibade’s 56th-minute header handed the Super Falcons a narrow victory in their quarterfinal at the tournament in Morocco.
The top four finishers at the Women’s Afcon qualify for next year’s Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, turning each of the last eight ties into a veritable final.
Morocco and Zambia booked their tickets on Wednesday and Nigeria joined them on Thursday at the end of a bruising clash with their neighbours. It will be a ninth Women’s World Cup finals appearance for the Super Falcons.
The result means Cameroon must play in a repechage match on Sunday to try and qualify for the World Cup playoff tournament in New Zealand, where two more African sides will have a chance to qualify for the finals Down Under next June.
Cameroon have been to the last two World Cups but more than met their match in the reigning African champions in a battle between the continent’s top two ranked women’s teams.
Ajibade’s goal came after a storming run from Ngozi Okobi-Okeoghene and a cross by Ifeoa Onumonu, that found the blue-haired winger at the back post. Ajibade’s effort came in off the post in the only on-target effort of the game.
There was little to choose between the two sides, who provided for by far the most physical clash yet seen at the tournament.
Nigeria now meet Morocco in next week’s Wafcon semifinal while Cameroon must play Botswana in the playoffs for fifth to eighth place.
The Indomitable Lionesses, who had key midfielders Monique Ngock and Jeannette Yango suspended for the clash, had only conceded one goal in the tournament before Thursday, despite finishing second in their opening round group, and kept Nigeria largely at bay with stout defending.
Cameroon captain Gabriele Aboudi Onguene had two efforts, either side of the break, to give her country a chance of success but dragged both wide.
Nigeria might have gone into the lead in the 24th minute when tall English-born defender Ashleigh Plumptre had two successive headers before the Cameroon goalkeeper plucked the ball out of the air.
Later on Thursday, South Africa and Tunisia meet in Rabat to decide the last available World Cup berth.