Nine-time champions and ever-present Nigeria earned their ticket to the 13th edition of the Women Africa Cup of Nations in majestic style on Tuesday with a 2-1 defeat of hosts Cape Verde, for a 7-1 aggregate win in the final round of the qualification series.
The hosts started like a house on fire at the Santiago-Estádio Nacional Cabo Verde in Praia raiding the Super Falcons’ goal area, and their quick-off-the-blocks approach paid off when Ivania Tavares Moreira got the ball past goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie for a goal in the 9th minute.
Sensing the possibility of being able to do the unexpected, the Cape Verdeans swarmed all over the Nigerian rear and earned a couple of corner kicks in the process, but the resilient Super Falcons, spurred on by members of the Nigerian community cheering in the stands, quickly repelled the onslaughts and launched some of their own.
A couple of corner kicks and free-kicks after, the Nigerians rose to the ascendancy, but the scoreline remained the same as the teams went into recess.
Coach Justin Madugu threw Esther Onyenezide and the clinical Esther Okoronkwo into the fray at the beginning of the second half, for Peace Efih and Uchenna Kanu, and knuckled when Okoronkwo, never one to engage in frivolities in the fore, got the ball in the net 11 minutes into the second half, only to be judged off-side.
The homers would not be as lucky six minutes later, as Okoronkwo, who got two of the goals when the Falcons brushed aside the Verdeans 5-0 in Abuja on Thursday, scored to draw Nigeria level.
Captain Rasheedat Ajibade saw her shot fly past the crossbar in the 71st minute, and 10 minutes later, substitute Rinsola Babajide could have got her first international goal but saw her low drive agonisingly miss the target by a few inches.
Yet, the sterling Ajibade would have the last laugh, scoring three minutes into added time to ensure victory for Nigeria and an overwhelming aggregate win that takes the Falcons into next year’s finals as undoubtedly the team to beat.