WAFCON Update: Records Fall As Final Line-Up Confirmed

by Emmanuel Faith, Impetus Women’s Football Correspondent (21/7/22)

Above: Joy for Nesryne El Chad of Morocco as the host nation clinched a place in the final in front of a record crowd. Photo: CAF Women.

It is not just the European Championships that are seeing attendance records fall left, right, and centre. Crowds are at all time highs in the WAFCON, with a superb attendance of 45,562 who trooped to watch the semi-final between hosts, the Atlas Lionesses of Morocco, take on the holders, the Super Falcons of Nigeria, at the Rabat stadium, setting the record for the highest number of attendees for a female football match.  We can safely say “this is our time” as far as female football is concerned.

The last part of our tournament round-up (https://impetusfootball.org/2022/07/13/wafcon-group-stage-round-up/) saw us reveal the quarter-finalists, so this is where we pick up the story.

QUARTER-FINALS:

Senegal vs Zambia
The last eight opened with the She-polopolo of Zambia taking on the Teranga Lionesses of Senegal. The first half was compact and both teams had a cagey approach, doing their best to avoid conceding first, something that they both achieved in the first half.

However, Zambia’s defense was broken when they conceded a free-kick that was taken by Mbayang Sow. The Senegalese defender sent a looping ball into the box which was directed into the net with a towering header from Nguenar Ndiaye.

The Lionesses didn’t lead for long as a sloppy goal-keeping from the Senegalese goal-keeper gave Avel Chitundu a chance to equalise. The match went to penalties and two misses out of four meant Senegal were out, meaning that they were going to have to rely on the continental play-offs to have a sniff of playing at the World Cup next year.

Above: Celebrations for Zambia whose win over Senegal clinched a place at the 2023 World Cup. Photo: CAF Women.

Morocco vs Botswana

The hosts Morocco faced The Mares from Botswana in the second quarter-final. History was on the line as neither side had ever made the semi-finals before.

The game opened up quickly as Mssoudy Sanaa put Morocco ahead after converting a brilliant freekick played in by Fatima Tagnaout in the third minute. The lead was cancelled just four minutes later with Keitumetse Dithebe’s brilliant solo freekick.
Yasmin Mrabet restored the hosts’ list after nodding in a looping cross from Fatima Tagnaout, a goal that was sufficient enough to take them to their first semi-finals and clinch their World Cup ticket.

South Africa vs Tunisia
An early goal from the South African striker, Jermaine Seoposenwe gave her team an advantage and was later enough to send last year’s finalist to a consecutive semi-final as both teams couldn’t find the back of the net again despite creating an array of chances.

Above: Nigeria celebrate their victory over Cameroon. Photo: CAF Women.

Nigeria vs Cameroon
This was undoubtedly the most anticipated quarter-finals. It was a battle of the heavyweights and with 48.4% of the action areas played in the midfield, the quality and intensity didn’t disappoint. It was Nigeria who progressed thanks to a brilliant header from Rasheedat Ajibade after skilful build-up play from Ngozu Okobi and Ifeoma Onumonu. The Super-Falcons keep their recent unbeaten streak against Cameroon.

SEMI-FINALS:

Dramatic. Frenetic. Athletic. These are words that describe the two semifinal matches. The first semi-final was a match-up between Zambia and South Africa. The Zambians played their hearts out despite having less possession. The majority of the action was in the middle third of the pitch – 51.2% – showing how cautious both teams were about conceding. It looked to be almost certain that the match was going to extra time until the Ethiopian referee Lidya Tafesse awarded a penalty kick to the South-Africans for a collision between Martha Thembo and Jermaine Seoposenwe at the edge of the box.

Above: The semi-final Morocco and Nigeria saw a record crowd for a women’s match in Africa. Photo: CAF Women,


More drama was to come in the second semi-final match between the title holders Nigeria and the host Morocco. The first half started on a smooth trajectory, and accelerated in pace and intensity, with both teams creating half-chances, however, neither was able to break the deadlock.

The second half opened with chaos when the Super-Falcon’s midfielder Halimatu Ayinde was shown a red card for stamping on Rosella Ayane of Morocco. Despite the reduction in number, the Falcons played with the same intensity as they had done before and took the lead from an own goal from Yasmin Mrabet after the ball was spilled from a curling cross made by Rasheedat Ajibade and redirected by Ifeoma Onumonu’s brilliant header. The lead was short-lived as Mssoudy Sanaa was at the right place at the right time to slot in a loose ball spilled by Chiamaka Nnadozie.

The match was balanced and despite the inequality in number strength, the Falcons maintained their intense tempo until Rasheedat Ajibade was shown a red card for a stomp on the Moroccan defender, Zineb Redouni. There were diverse opinions about this decision as there was a similar incidence in the first half where Ohale was stomped but nothing was done.

“Morocco won the match but the Super Falcons won our hearts” was the trending message after the match, as the Super Falcons played with nine players for more than 50 minutes, taking the match to extra time and penalties before losing out thanks to Ifeoma Onumonu’s missed spot-kick.

The final is set as the host will be playing last year’s finalist, while Super Falcons would hope to beat Zambia and get the bronze medal, a consolation for their outstanding efforts so far.




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