Three goals in four minutes set the tone for the Super Falcons’ 4-0 demolition of Burundi in their final Group C game of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco on Sunday, securing a place in the quarter-finals.
As a result, the Falcons have set up a potentially explosive clash with perennial rivals Cameroon in their final eight match on Thursday.
Forward Rasheedat Ajibade, Nigeria’s star girl, scored the first goal of the night in the 25th minute, before the Athletic Madrid woman provided the second goal for Peace Efih seconds later, as well as the third and fourth goals for Uchenna Kanu in the 29th and 46th minutes, respectively, in a comprehensive victory for Nigeria.
Randy Waldrum made four changes to the team that defeated Botswana 2-0 on matchday two of the tournament, replacing Halimatu Ayinde, Michelle Alozie, Rita Chikwelu, and Francisca Ordega with Efih, Kanu, Christy Ucheibe, and Nicole Payne.
Ajibade, by far the game’s best player, repeatedly caused problems for the Burundians and was the key woman as the Falcons employed their high-pressing tactics.
The West Africans struck first, with striker Ifeoma Onumonu firing wide after a fine pass from Ngozi Okobi-Okeoghene just two minutes into the game.
Despite their early dominance, the nine-time champions needed 25 minutes to break down their opponent’s defense after Ajibade outpaced her marker before being brought down inside the box by goalkeeper Eanine Irakoze.
The former Robo Queens striker dusted herself off before coolly converting the resulting penalty.
Ajibade’s fine cross was met by Efih, who converted to double the lead immediately after the restart.
Waldrum’s team continued to press forward and were rewarded for their efforts when Kanu scored the third goal, courtesy of another Ajibade assist.
Kanu then thought she had scored her second goal of the night, but her attempt was correctly ruled out for offside.
The Nigerians scored their fourth goal just 20 seconds into the second half, with Ajibade once again providing the assist, setting up Kanu for her second goal of the night, as the nine-time champions cruised to the last eight as Group C runners-up with six points — trailing leaders South Africa, who were held 0-0 to round out their group phase campaign with seven points after earlier wins over Nigeria (2-1) and Burundi (1-0). (3-1).
In the other last eight games, Morocco faces Botswana, South Africa faces Tunisia, the third-place team in Group B, and Zambia faces debutants Senegal.
Winners of the last eight matches secure qualification to next year’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, with two losing quarter-finalists having the chance to also advance to the Mundial through the inter-continental play-offs.