Nigeria and South Africa came 7th and 10th respectively as the 12th edition of the annual 12-nation invitational Cyprus Women's Cup came to an end on March 6th, while North Korea were crowned champions following a dramatic 7-6 penalty shoot-out win over Italy after they both tied 3-3 in extra time in the decisive final match at GSZ Stadium in Larnaca.
Meanwhile, Nigeria Swede trainer Thomas Dennerby and his South African counterpart Desiree Ellis have both described the experience in Cyprus as useful lessons ahead of the forthcoming 8th FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019.
"I am happy that we were able to come here and participate in this tournament," declared Dennerby who led the Damlandslaget (Sweden women's national team) to third-place finish at the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup held in Germany. "The lessons are good for the team, just like we also learnt a lot at the tournament in China."
Last January, Nigeria finished third at the 2019 Four-Nation Women's Football Tournament in Meizhou (China)following a 4-1 thrashing of Romania in the third place play-off match but the West Africans actually lost with an identical 4-1 margin to Austria in their opening match at the Cyprus Cup.
The African champions rallied to a 3-2 win over Slovakia in their second game only to lose their last Group C encounter to Belgium (1-0) to finish in third position behind Austria and Belgium from their section.
In the ensuing 7th-place classification match at the Tassos Markos Stadium in Paralimni, Nigeria defeated Thailand 3-0 with two first half goals from striker Asisat Oshoala and defender Onome Ebi while Anam Imo, who scored Nigeria's winning goal in the 4-3 defeat of Slovakia, got Nigeria's third late into the second stanza.
"We lost to Austria but we recovered well against Slovakia, and if we had put away the chances we had after scoring our third goal, there would have been no way for them to equalize," Dennerby explained. "A good thing that we won in the end."
On the other hand, Banyana Banyana only managed a draw out of their four matches at the tournament but not without some positives though.
Earlier in their opening match, South Africa held Finland to a respectable 2-2 draw but subsequently lost 3-0 to the Europeans in the 9th-place classification tie that reportedly earned defender Noko Matlou's her 150th caps to become Banyana Banyana second most capped player after 164 capped captain Janine van Wyk.
The South Africans other losses in their Group B section included a 4-1 loss to eventual winners North Korea on MatchDay 2 as well as the 2-1 loss to Czech Republic on MatchDay 3.
The results notwithstanding, Coach Ellis who would be leading South Africa to her first appearance at the Women's World Cup, admitted the team need to polish its rough edges before they berth in France.
"We are happy with the overall performance of the team because we were able to test some new players at the tournament and it shows that we have qualities in the team," Ellis told safa.net
"Anybody wants to win a tournament but we were looking at the bigger picture as we prepare for the World Cup; and in all areas, we were better than the results shown.
"For us, the World Cup is the bigger picture and there are lots of positives to take away from this tournament and we are going to work on the positives because we still need to work harder on our shortcomings ," added the former South African international.
2019 CYPRUS CUP CLASSIFICATION RESULTS
1st place: North Korea 3-3 Italy (Korea won 7-6 on pen.)
3rd place: Austria 0-0 Belgium (Belgium won 3-2 on pen.)
5th place: Czech 1-2 Mexico
7th place: Nigeria 3-0 Thailand
9th place: Finland 3-0 South Africa
11th place: Slovakia 2-3 Hungary