Africa: Cameroon-Nigeria As It Happened

Casablanca's Mohammed V Stadium was home today to one of the most anticipated quarter-finals of the 2022 TotalEnergies Women's Africa Cup of Nations, a titanic clash between nine-time African champions Nigeria and bitter rivals Cameroon.

In the last two clashes of these two teams at WAFCON Nigeria deprived Cameroon of a home crown in 2016, and in 2018 the Super Falcons also eliminated the Indomitable Lionesses in the semifinals in Ghana.

Would history repeat itself?

At 2.57pm, over three hours before kickoff Esther Elamey Aday, the steward of Nigeria, meticulously lays down the outfits the Super Falcons will wear for this meeting: "We will play with the colors of the country, in green and white," she says proudly.

It is the same precision and the same pride on the side of Marthe Aurore Ngalle, Cameroon's kit custodian, who will play with yellow jersey and red shorts.

At this news many Cameroonian journalists had a wry smile.

"Yellow is not a colour we succeed in, but hey we will have to deal with it," says David Eyegue Nzima, Secretary General of the African Confederation of Sports Information.

At 3:57pm, Nigeria is the first team to arrive at the stadium, joyous and in good humour, singing religious songs in Yoruba, one of Nigeria's vernacular languages.

Randy Waldrum, Nigeria's coach, stops for his traditional pre-match interview: "The girls are confident and ready to fight against Cameroon, because there is so much at stake: a place in the semi-finals and qualification for the World Cup".

Ten minutes later, the Cameroonian women arrive at the stadium. Masks on their noses, faces closed, the Indomitable Lionesses are a study of concentration, focused on their mission.

They arrive the same time the Cameroonian anthem sounds, during the pre-match rehearsals.

Coach Gabriel Zabo with a smile answers questions from CAF TV, the Cameroonian technician is brief, saying: "We will do everything to win this match".

It's 4pm when the first supporters start arriving.

Those of the Indomitable Lionesses occupy the left wing of the stadium, while those of Nigeria occupy the right side, their horns, vuvuzelas and drums are out.

Casablanca is about to experience a belle party.

At 4.20pm the two teams meet briefly. Only Francisca Ordega and the captain of the Indomitable Lionesses Gabrielle Aboudi Onguéné, both members of CSKA Moscow, kiss each other, and exchange words briefly.

It is 4.47pm when the match sheet arrives in the media stand. Who to replace Jeannette Yango and Monique Ngock, suspended because of having collected two yellow cards during the group stages? In the end, Brigitte Omboudou and Claudia Dagba are in the starting eleven. On the Nigerian side, Francisca Ordega starts the match.

It's 5pm. The players come out of the locker room. The Indomitable Lionesses head towards the central circle. Leading her team in prayer, Aboudi Onguene encourages her teammates before the warm-up session.

Out before her colleagues, Chiamaka Nnadozie, Nigeria's goalkeeper, asks the fans to make some noise. The Nigerian women divide into three groups of three during their warm-up routine, stretching, sprinting.

It is 5.40pm when both teams return to the locker rooms, after greeting their supporters.

At 5.45pm the flags of the two nations enter the scene, preceded by the two teams. The anthems sound and Gabriel Aboudi Onguéné wins the toss against Onome Ebi. The thermometer displays 27 degrees. Everything looks set for a high level of play.

It's 6pm and the game is on.

Both teams are unable to break each other down in the first half and head for the changerooms at 0-0, with the fans hungry for a goal.

At 7.13pm it is Nigeria opened the scoring through a plunging header by Rasheedat Ajibade, the Nigerian with the blue hair. It's 1-0 and the Super Falcons exult. Heads down, but encouraged by their coach Gabriel Zabo on the edge of the field, the Cameroonians restart play.

It is 7.41pm and the Nigerian fans feel the victory getting closer. They sing louder and louder. They have a few minutes to hold on, before Nigeria secures its place in the semi-finals.

Cameroon continues its assaults, but Nigeria does not crack.

It is 7.49pm when the final whistle blows and history has repeated itself. Nigeria beat Cameroon 1-0 and book their ticket to the semi-final of this WAFCON 2022 and also to Australia and New Zealand for the 2023 FIFA World Cup.

The whole bench join the players on the pitch, Randy Waldrum's team congratulate each other. With the Nigerian flag on her shoulders, Rita Chikwelu cannot hold back her tears.

The Cameroonians, meanwhile , do not dwell around, they return heads down to the locker room - still greeted by their supporters.

The journey back home for the Indomitable Lionesses will be a long one. They still a playoff match and a path to the FIFA World Cup through the extended playoff route, but tonight there will be only bitter disappointment as the old enemy gets one over them yet again.

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