2024 Olympics qualifier: Africans still believe in black magic and the other takeaways from Nigeria’s win over Cameroon

The Nigerian women’s national team defeated their Cameroonian counterparts 1-0 in Abuja on Monday to advance to the final round of the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

The Super Falcons’ winning goal was scored by Esther Okoronkwo in the 14th minute of play after she pounced on a cute cut-back from Jennifer Echegini.

Here are the major takeaways from the encounter:

Super Falcons were wasteful

The Falcons edged to a narrow victory over the Lionesses and could have paid dearly had the visitors nicked an away goal late in the tie.

Nigeria had several chances to kill the game in the first half after enjoying a good start to the encounter.

However, poor finishing from Echegini, Ajibade, Toni Payne, and Esther Okoronkwo left Nigeria holding on for dear life after Cameroon gained the upper hand in the second half.

Africans still believe in juju

There was drama at the start of the second half inside the Moshood Abiola Stadium in Abuja after a Cameroonian player attempted to plant a juju-like material at the Super Falcons goal post.

Apparently, Nigeria’s goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie must be using black magic to have been able to keep the Cameroonians at bay in Douala and Abuja.

The attempt was checkmated and possibly the efficacy of the charm was diluted as Nnadozie prevented the Lionesses from breaching her goal.

It is interesting to see that African nations remain steadfast in the belief that the use of black magic still has a place in football in the 21st century.

Decision to bench Oshoala for Okoronkwo paid off

Head coach Randy Waldrum made the bold decision to bench Bay FC forward Asisat Oshoala, choosing instead to start Esther Okoronkwo in attack.

Juventus star Jennifer Echegini also made the starting eleven of the encounter after sitting on the bench from kickoff in the first leg.

It proved to be an inspired decision as both Echegini and Okoronkwo combined to score the decisive goal that took Nigeria a step closer to achieving their Olympic dreams.

Aside from the goal, the two players were classy with the ball and fought hard without it to make the Super Falcons attack lively in the first half.

Oshoala emerged from the bench in the second half and did her bit, but coach Waldrum would be thanking his stars for going with his gut’s decision to start Okoronkwo.

Deborah Abiodun is a different class

It is always a pleasure to see the Pittsburg Panthers midfielder in full flow in the middle of the park.

Deborah Abiodun was mercurial again in midfield as the Super Falcons dominated proceedings in the first half.

Crisp with her movements, hard to shake off the ball, and always looking for forward passes, Abiodun gave the Cameroonians a lesson in being the perfect midfielder.

Her dominance waned after Christy Ucheibe was drafted back to the defence following an injury to centre-back Oluwatosin Demehin.

It is clear, however, that a bright future awaits the young Abiodun should she keep up her progress.

Super Falcons have to do more against South Africa

Randy Waldrum’s ladies were impressive in the first half, creating chances with ease and running rings around their opponents.

The Super Falcons are a better side than the team that wobbled to fourth place at the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco.

There, however, remains a big room for improvement.

Nigeria’s next opponent is potentially reigning African champions South Africa.

Only a Falcons side coordinated and efficient in attack, relentless and creative in midfield, while staying rock solid in defence can overpower Bayana Bayana.