PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has congratulated the Super falcons for winning their first ever West African Football Union (Wafu) trophy following their victory over hosts Ivory Coast in a penalty shootout over the weekend.
After playing a 1-1 draw thanks to an injury time equaliser, the Falcons went on to win the shootout 5-4 and lift the trophy. This was the second ever Wafu Women’s football tournament and winning it will put the Falcons ion good stead for their next challenge, the Fifa Women’s World Cup, which starts in France next month.
President Buhari hailed the Falcons for putting up a superlative performance that saw them emerge as champions, with an unbeaten record throughout the tournament. He described their victory over the Dame Elephants as being down to their fighting spirit and resplendent skills evidenced in team work, discipline and focus.
In addition, President Buhari also extolled all officials and management of the team, led by Thomas Dennerby, for their sacrifice, commitment and diligence in winning the championship. He then urged both officials and players to remain focused ahead of the forthcoming Women’s World Cup in France, stressing that they should unleash the same zeal in the global tournament.
In the final played at Abidjan’s Stade Robert Champroux de Macory, the Ivorians dominated proceedings in the opening minutes of the encounter but failed to find the back of the net until the 42nd minute when Ange Koko Nguessan’s free-kick broke the deadlock. Ivory Coast held on to the lead in the second half with the hopes of lifting the title on home soil but Uchenna Kanu’s last minute equaliser put paid to this.
This stalemate forced both teams into a penalty shoot-out in which the Super Falcons converted all their kicks and a missed effort denied the hosts glory. Aside her team’s success, Kanu ended the competition as the top scorer, after finding the back of the net 10 times in five games.
Nigeria’s Falcons had advanced into the final following their triumph over 2018 winners Ghana via another penalty shoot-out. Ivory Coast on the other hand, who were last year’s finalists, had beaten Mali 2-1 in the competition’s second semi-final match to secure back-to-back final appearances.
With this victory under their belts, the Falcons will now step up preparations for the Women’s World Cup which starts on June 7 in France. Nigeria has featured in all previous seven Women’s World Cups but has only ever managed to reach the quarter finals once.