Drawn into Group A together with the hosts Namibia, Zambia and CÃ´te dâIvoire, Nigeria won all three group matches, scoring 12 goals in the process. In the semi-final, they got the better of South Africa â winning 2-1 and thereby securing their place in Canada. Cameroon coach Ngachu Enow said before the match that the final pitted the strongest attack against the strongest defence. And he was to be proven right, as the Super Eagles attacked from the first whistle. They achieved an early breakthrough when the tournament top-scorer Desire Oparanozie opened the scoring after just 13 minutes with a well-taken free-kick. Shortly before the break Asisat Oshoala added another to give the Super Falcons a two-goal cushion at half-time. Nigeria played with less purpose in the second half and Cameroon were twice denied by the crossbar.
Cameroon off to a good start
Cameroon set the groundwork for their appearance in the final with a 1-0 victory against South Africa in their first group game. A 2-0 win against Algeria in their second match saw them ensure their place in the semi-final with a game to spare and even a 1-0 defeat against Ghana in their final match kept them in first place in the group and secured them a semi-final berth against CÃ´te dâIvoire. The 2-1 victory, courtesy of captain Christine Manie's header with two minutes of extra time remaining, secured their ticket to Canada. Coach Ngachu Enow said after the match that they had achieved what they wanted to. âOur first goal was to qualify for the World Cup, we have achieved that.â
There was disappointment for Ghana who have thrice represented the continent at the World Cup. The Black Queens were always on a back-footing after losing their opening Group B game against Algeria 1-0, but even the victory in their last game against eventual finalists Cameroon was not enough to see them escape the group phase. A first-ever victory for a North African side at the finals recorded by Algeria was not the only upset during the competition, as unheralded hosts Namibia got the ball rolling with a 2-0 win against Zambia.
Players to watch
Asisat Oshoala arrived in Namibia having already been recognised as a star player and she had the adidas Golden Ball and Golden Boot award from the FIFA Under-20 World Cup Canada 2014 to prove it. She continued along that path at the finals, scoring both goals in the Super Falcon's 2-1 semi-final victory against South Africa and then added another in the final. She again won the Golden Ball award as the best player of the tournament. Striker Desire Oparanozie top scored in the competition with five goals and will certainly be one to watch in Canada next year, while defensive midfielder Ngozi Okobi was also impressive in holding off attacks. Gaelle Enganamouit was the stand-out performer for the Cameroon side, while South African captain Janine van Wyk and defender Mamello Makhabane did well for Banyana Banyana.
The hosts' Thomalina Adams and Zenatha Coleman kept the Namibian flag flying high, while Zambian Kabange Mupopo was a livewire belying her status as a world class sprinter who won silver in the All Africa Games last year over 400m. For Ghanaian captain Elizabeth Cudjoe the tournament ended in disappointment for the Black Queens, but she still earned positive notices.
36 - The number of matches that Nigeria have won in the competition's historyout of 45 contests. They have drawn five times and lost just four. Equatorial Guinea have defeated them twice â in 2008 and 2012, while South Africa also took the win in 2012 and Ghana got the better of the Super Falcons in 2002 but then went on to lose the final against their west African rivals.
What they said
âWe could not afford to lose, so from the outset our strategy was to take every team as they came. We lost to Cameroon in the third place match in Equatorial Guinea [in the 2012 finals], and we wanted to avenge that result,â Nigerian coach Edwin Okon.