Nigeria's dominant role as the undisputed queens of women's football on the African continent looked under threat for all but the last day of the fourth African women's championships in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Super Falcons, who had won the previous three championships, found themselves attacked from all ends as a raft of pretenders stepped forward to try and wrestle away their crown.

But while the they looked vulnerable at times, in the end it was the Nigerians who were celebrating again.

On Sunday 3 October, they brushed aside any thoughts if abdicating their crown with an emphatic 5-0 win over Cameroon in the final to re-emphasis their dominant position on the Mother Continent.

It was a virtuoso performance from Godwin Izilein's side, highlighted by the outstanding individual goal scoring feats of FIFA women's World Cup USA 2003 veteran Perpetua Nkwocha.

Untouchable Nkwocha
She scored four goals in the one-sided rout of the Indomitable Lionesses, who crumbled under the pace and agility of the well-drilled Nigerian team.

 

Cameroon came close to unseating the Super Falcons
(FIFA.com)
Nkwocha's four goals in the final is a new landmark for African soccer and also saw the 28-year-old finish the tournament as top marksman with a total of nine goals from only six games.
Her skill on and off the ball also won her honours as the tournament's best player, finishing just ahead of compatriot Felicia Eze.

Nigeria's quality in the final was in sharp contrast to their meeting with the same Cameroon side just one week earlier, where the Lionesses twice came from behind to force a credible 2-2 draw.

"I think that first result shook my team up very strongly and we had to endure a whole week of trash talking from Cameroon. It gave us a kind of motivation to produce something special in the final," said Izilein after the decisive victory at the Johannesburg stadium.

Pleasant surprises
For Cameroon, despite the one-sided hiding in the final, the tournament marked another steady progression for their female football as the side made it to the final for the first time.

It was also a tournament of marked achievement for the likes of Algeria, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe, who all did much better than initially expected.

Ethiopia, in reaching the semi-finals with a bunch of teenagers, looked a polished and well-organised outfit and with further international competition could become a significant force in the region.

Ghana set their sights high before the start of the tournament and were the best prepared team, arriving in South Africa 10 days before the tournament to acclimatise to the altitude.

Deputy sports minister Joe Aggrey accompanied the team and stressed the Ghanaian government's backing of the side and the desire for the Black Queens to upstage their Nigerian rivals.

Disappointment for early-bird Black Queens, hosts Banyana Banyana
But in the event, Ghana did not even reach the final in what would have been a repeat of the 2002 decider in Abeokuta, Nigeria. Ghana, this year, fell to Cameroon in extra time in the semi-final.

Like Ghana, hosts South Africa also proved a major disappointment. The Banyana Banyana lost all three of their opening round matches and were completely out of sorts as a result of a generalised lack of preparation and the appointment of a coach only a fortnight before the event.

Nigeria will now turn their attention to the FIFA women's under-19 championship in Thailand in November where they have high hopes of making a strong impression after disappointing two years ago in Canada.

"There are five girls in our side at the African championship who will go to Thailand and we promise the African continent that we are working hard to bring the world title back home," said Nigeria's top women's soccer administrator Ayo Omidiran.