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Paris 2024: Falcons, Lionesses boast ahead of clash of the titans in Abuja

by Lesley Ngwa
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Head Coach Randy Waldrum and Captain Rasheedat Ajibade are confident Nigeria’s Super Falcons will overcome the challenge of Cameroon and reach the final round of the African qualifying series for this year’s Women’s Olympic Football Tournament in France.

Waldrum led his ladies to a scoreless draw in the first leg in Douala on Friday, with the Nigerians rueing a disallowed goal by Jennifer Echegini early in the second half. Both squads then joined the same flight from Douala into Abuja on Sunday morning.

“We played a good game in Douala and we are confident of our chances to get the ticket in Abuja. It was never going to be easy having only a few days together with the girls, but we will make the best of the opportunities that we are able to create on home ground on Monday,” said Waldrum.

Ajibade, who scored the lone Nigeria goal that threw Cameroon’s Lionesses out of the Women Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco 19 months ago, and also netted two of the goals that eliminated Ethiopia in the second round of these qualifying series, says the Falcons have no fear of whatever the arch rivals can bring to the turf of the MKO Abiola National Stadium.

“Our objective remains getting the Olympics ticket. Personally, I have never played at the Olympics and that is the case with an overwhelming majority of players in this team. We are determined to take this opportunity. We have another 90 minutes to make our claim to the final-round ticket and we are focused on a positive result.”

However, Coach Jean-Baptiste Bisseck is also confident of the ability of his Lionesses to turn the table against the nine-time African champions in Nigeria’s administrative capital.

“We will play on the Abuja field as if we are playing at home. Cameroon will not entertain any fear. The Lionesses are prepared to win and make progress.”

Both teams will compete on a clean slate on Monday evening having battled to a barren ending in Douala, with the winner most likely to be up against reigning African champions South Africa for a place in Paris.

Nigeria’s Falcons featured at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament in Australia in 2000, Greece in 2004 and China in 2008, but have not qualified since their outing in China 16 years ago. Cameroon’s only previous outing was at the London 2012 Olympics.

Banyana Banyana bounced Tanzania 3-0 in Dar es Salaam and should have a cruise at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.

Zambia’s Copper Queens put behind them the harrowing experience of watching a team mate die in camp, to shock Ghana’s Black Queens 1-0 in West Africa, and have the strength, stamina and motivation to hold their own against the visitors in Ndola on Monday.

Tunisia’s senior girls have a mountain to climb in Rabat, when they confront fast-improving and highly-motivated Morocco’s Atlas Lionesses who beat them 2-1 in front of their own fans on Friday. The winner on aggregate will be eligible to square up to the winner between Zambia and Ghana.

Only two tickets are available for Africa in the 16-nation Women’s Olympic Football Tournament.

For the Nigeria/Cameroon clash in Abuja, which kicks off at 4pm, CAF has appointed Namibian official Ndemugwanitha Twanyanyukwa as referee, with her compatriots Eveline Augustinus, Olivia Amukuu and Vistoria Shangula in the roles of assistant referee 1, assistant referee 2 and fourth official respectively.

Alice Wangari Kimani from Kenya will serve as referee assessor while Christine Ziga from Ghana will be the commissioner.


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