Ghana and Nigeria both marched with impressive efficiency into the line-up for the upcoming FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Japan, winning by handsome margins in their final qualifying ties. The two countries, who also appeared in Germany two years ago, will again represent Africa at the competition after sending a loud message of their competency in the preliminaries.
Ghana’s Black Princesses overcame Tunisia 7-2 on aggregate while Nigeria, who have reached all five previous U-20 finals, demolished the Democratic Republic of Congo 7-0 over the two legs. The pair have long been strong in the women's game, with Nigeria in particular rightly seen as the dominant continental force at all age groups.
The Falconets reached the final in Germany two years ago, falling to the hosts 2-0, but not before winning the right to call themselves the first African team to reach the ultimate match of any FIFA Women's World Cup.
The Nigerians completed their qualification with a 3-0 away win at Kinshasa’s imposing Stade des Martyrs on Saturday to add to their 4-0 first leg win in Abeokuta earlier in May. Coached by Edwin Okon, the Falconets wasted no time in setting about their business despite the alien, and imposing, environment.
Ngozi Okobi, who played in the last two FIFA U-17 Women's World Cups, opened the score after eight minutes and star striker Desire Oparanozie doubled the lead just six minutes later, which made up for her failing to score in the first leg.
It also effectively took the tie beyond the wildest dreams of the Congolese, who went further behind when Francisca Ordega contributed another goal before the break. Goals in the first leg earlier this month had come from captain Gloria Ofoegbu, who scored a brace, Ordega and Ebere Orji.
The performance was straightforward, but Okon was feeling both confident and resolute about his side's chances when looking ahead to the global challenge. “We can match-up with the rest of the world,” he said boldly to reporters. “I already have a prototype of how my squad will be at the World Cup. We are not going to relent in our effort, we are very determined to make Nigeria happy at the forthcoming World Cup in Japan.”
A crown for the Princesses
Ghana had won their first leg away 3-1 and so were confident heading into the second leg at home, and though they started slowly, they eventually coasted their way to a win at the Accra Sports Stadium, also on Saturday.
Although things worked out in the end for the Black Princesses, they found themselves uncomfortably behind at half-time in the second leg after Chayma Abbassi put Tunisia, who had two French-based players in their squad, shockingly in front. Although they still led on aggregate, the hosts pushed hard for the equaliser and found it after the break through Elizabeth Addo.
In the second half, the Ghanaians exerted their control on the match with Alive Eva Danso making it 2-1 and USA-based Candice Osei-Agyemang adding the third on her U-20 debut. Osei-Agyemang attends the University of Pennsylvania and played for Ghana at the first-ever FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in New Zealand four years ago.
Her elder sister Myralyn also went to the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup™. Addo scored her second of the match and the fourth for Ghana to give a resounding scoreline to a match that had them in trouble at times.
Black Princesses coach Robert Sackey credited his side's background with the easy victory. "[My team] have been at the World Cup before. They are very poised and have the experience to go about situations like this. That is what they are about," he said.