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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

Women’s World Cup final eight is wide open, as sport sees a changing of the guard

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FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 - Round of 16 - England v Nigeria - Brisbane Football Stadium, Brisbane, Australia - August 7, 2023 England's Rachel Daly and Georgia Stanway celebrate during the penalty shootout REUTERS/Dan Peled

Few could have predicted the eight teams still standing when the Women’s World Cup kicked off three weeks – and more surprisingly, the teams who are gone.

In the most wide open World Cup in history, Colombia and France were the last two teams to clinch quarter-final berths Tuesday evening, joining Spain, the Netherlands, Japan, Sweden, Australia and England to close the curtain on a breathtaking first two rounds full of delicious twists and turns.

When the tournament was expanded to 32 teams, there was apprehension around whether lower-ranked sides could compete at this level. But the exact opposite happened. Concerns about blowouts were blown out of the water in a changing of the guard.

Japan are the only previous World Cup champions remaining, having climbed the winners’ podium in 2011.

Gone are four-times champions United States, who were gunning to become the first team to win three in a row, but were sent spinning out of the tournament before the semi-finals for the first time in history.

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Also gone: Two-time champions Germany, 1995 winners Norway, reigning Olympic champions Canada, and Brazil, who had not been ousted in the group stage since 1995.

“Nothing is easy in this tournament,” coach Sarina Wiegman said after England survived a last-16 scare from Nigeria before winning in a shootout.

“That’s very exciting because we see the women’s game has improved so much. You saw in the group stage, many games were equal, and it’s not that the expected teams have won all the time.”

In an end of an era, the elimination of the U.S., Canada and Brazil marked inauspicious World Cup finales for some of the game’s biggest trailblazers in Megan Rapinoe, Christine Sinclair and Marta.

Others such as Colombia’s dazzling teenager Linda Caicedo, Spain’s integral midfield cog Aitana Bonmati and France’s consistently excellent striker Kadidiatou Diani have stepped into the spotlight.

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Who will win now is anybody’s guess.

Japan’s “Nadeshiko” – named for a pink flower that symbolises Japanese beauty – are on a mission to erase the memory of their last-16 exit four years ago, and are tournament favourites after trouncing Norway 3-1 in the last-16.

They will test their credentials Friday against Sweden, who dumped the U.S. out of the tournament on a decisive penalty shot measured in millimetres.

Spain’s La Roja have already made history with their quarter-final appearance in three tries. They bounced back from an ugly 4-0 loss to Japan to dispatch Switzerland 5-1 in the last 16.

La Roja are in quarter-final action Friday against the Netherlands, who went undefeated in the group stage of their ninth World Cup appearance, including a 7-0 win over Vietnam in the tournament’s most lopsided score.

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Australia’s Matildas have enjoyed a terrific run to the quarters despite missing the team’s leading scorer Sam Kerr. She was a 78th-minute substitute in the host team’s 2-0 last-16 win over Denmark and will surely start Kerr in what should be a thrilling quarter-final against France on Saturday.

Les Bleues are keen to bury their heartbreaking last-eight elimination four years ago in France, and coach Herve Renard said the pressure as hosts could weigh heavily on Australia.

“We’re hoping to put Australia through exactly what France went through when they were the host country in 2019,” Renard said after Les Bleues’ 4-0 win over Morocco on Tuesday.

Fourth-ranked England, who are unbeaten in 36 of their last 37 games, would seem the favourite on Saturday against Columbia, the lowest-ranked team in the final eight at 25, but the Lionesses staggered into the quarters, fortunate to stave off a terrific Nigeria team through 120 minutes to win in a shootout.

The Lionesses have more big-game experience as reigning European champions, but Colombia have enjoyed better fan support than any team except Australia. England will also be without top scorer Lauren James, who received a red card for a stamp to the back of Nigeria’s Michelle Alozie.

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-Reuters

 

 

 

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

Colombia 2024: Danjuma invites 32 as countdown begins to Final Tournament

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Flying Eagles, Falconets To Resume Camp On Thursday -

With just eight weeks to their first match of the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup Colombia 2024, Head Coach Chris Musa Danjuma has called up four goalkeepers, eight defenders, eight midfielders and 12 strikers to a training camp in the Federal Capital, Abuja in the first phase of preparation for the global tournament.

Team captain Oluchi Ohaegbulem is top of the list, with first-choice goalkeeper Faith Omilana, defenders Shukurat Oladipo and Comfort Folorunsho, midfielders Chinyere Kalu, Adoo Yina and Rofiat Imuran, and forwards Janet Akekoromowei, Flourish Sabastine and Aminat Bello also called.

Nigeria, a fixture at the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup finals since the tournament began as an U19 event in Canada 22 years ago, will contend with three-time winners Germany, Asian powerhouse Korea Republic and South American representatives Venezuela in group D of the competition scheduled for three Colombian cities, 31st August – 22nd September.

All the invited are expected at Serob Legacy Hotel, Wuye, Abuja on Sunday, 7th July.

ALL THE INVITED PLAYERS:

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Goalkeepers: Anderline Mgbechi (Delta Queens); Rachael Unachukwu (Nasarawa Amazons); Faith Omilana (Naija Ratels); Shukura Bakare (Nasarawa Amazons)

Defenders: Oluchi Ohaegbulem (Nasarawa Amazons); Jumoke Alani (Nasarawa Amazons); Shukurat Oladipo (FC Robo Queens); Oluwabunmi Oladeji (Naija Ratels); Folashade Adegbemile (Delta Queens); Chidera Okenwa (Delta Queens); Comfort Folorunsho (Edo Queens); Taiwo Lawal

Midfielders: Adoo Yina (Nasarawa Amazons); Olushola Shobowale (Nasarawa Amazons); Aminat Folorunsho (Rivers Angels); Chioma Olise (Edo Queens); Chinyere Kalu (Nasarawa Amazons); Joy Igbokwe (Naija Ratels); Rofiat Imuran (Stade de Reims, France); Zikora Agama (Naija Ratels)

Forwards: Delight Nwosu (Dannaz Ladies); Adaobi Okah (Remo Stars Ladies); Chiamaka Okwuchukwu (Rivers Angels); Chinaza Agoh (Delta Queens); Mary Nkpa (Heartland Queens); Chiamaka Osigwe (Edo Queens); Janet Akekoromowei (Asisat Academy); Mary Offor (Adamawa Queens); Flourish Sabastine (Stade de Reims, France); Sharon Ulumma (Heartland Queens); Aminat Bello (Otero College, USA); Reilly Adebowale (Bohemian FC, Republic of Ireland)   

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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

Nigeria’s Flamingos drawn against debuting hosts in FIFA U-17 World Cup

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The Flamingos, Nigeria’s U-17 women’s football team have been drawn against hosts, Dominican Republic for the finals of the Women’s U-17 World Cup holding from 16 October to 3 November in two host cities of Santo Domingo  and Santiago de los Caballeros.

 Both Nigeria and Dominican Republic are drawn in Group A along with Ecuador and New Zealand.  In Group B are Spain, USA, Korea Republic and Colombia.

Group C has  Korea DPR, Mexico, Kenya and England while those competing in Group D are  Japan , Poland, Brazil and Zambia.

The hosts will make their debut in the competition on 16 October against Ecuador in Santiago de los Caballeros, with New Zealand and Nigeria completing Group A.

Herrera, the first Dominican woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, had a special message for her compatriots taking part in the World Cup. She said: “I am the living example that you can achieve your dreams. So, keep up the good work. I am looking forward to seeing those amazing games.”

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Reigning champions Spain, meanwhile, will kick off their campaign in Group B, in which they will face USA, Korea Republic and Colombia, runners-up last time around.

“The advice to all the players that will participate here is to be confident and go live your dream. ¡Y Buena suerte!” said Flores, who took part in this tournament two years ago in India.

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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

Dominican Republic 2024:Flamingos land in the Dominican Republic!

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Nigeria’s U17 girls, Flamingos, have secured their ticket to the 8th FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup finals to be staged in the Dominican Republic later this year, after a 2-0 defeat of their Liberian counterparts at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja on Friday.

Victory took the aggregate tally to 6-1 in favour of Nigeria, with extraordinary poacher Harmony Chidi setting a record of 13 goals in a qualifying series that will be difficult to equal in years to come. She had 11 goals before kick-off, but netted the two goals of the evening to take Nigeria’s total of the series to a whopping 25. Central African Republic fell by a dozen goals while Burkina Faso fell 1-7 on aggregate.

Her first came after only four minutes when she sped past the Liberian defence to toe-poke the ball beyond the flailing arms of goalkeeper Makula Konneh from a cross by Shakirat Moshood.

A goal feast was expected, but this did not happen, as Peace Effiong had a close call in the 17th and Moshood rocked the crossbar a minute after from 20 yards. Moshood also missed from close range with 10 minutes left of the first half.

In the 56th minute, Moshood blasted beyond the goalpost when faced with Konneh, but Harmony Chidi made sure of her brace seven minutes later when she lashed the ball beyond Konneh’s reach as Nigeria seized the ball from a defensive slip-up by the visitors.

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The 8th FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup finals will be staged in the cities of Santiago de los Caballeros and Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, 16th October – 3rd November.

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