WAFCON: Lionesses miss out for first time in three decades.
Cameroon suffered a shock defeat to the Harambe Starlets of Kenya yesterday.
The match, played at the Nyayo National Stadium, was the return fixture of the first round of qualifiers to the 2024 WAFCON.
The Lionesses headed to Nairobi, needing just a draw to advance to the second round of the qualifying series, after they defeated the Starlets in Douala 1-0 during the away leg played last weekend.
Coach Jean Baptiste Bisseck, made some few changes to the team that faced Kenya in Douala, bringing in Nchout Njoya Ajara who started on the bench in the last match.
Tchengang Vianelle Mereille was also handed the role of right full back as she played her first international match with Cameroon.
Cameroon faced a Kenyan team that was determined to overturn the defeat they suffered in Douala six days ago.
The East Africans looked more purposeful at kickoff and would have taken an early lead.
Lionesses’ keeper, Michaely Bihina, missed clearing the ball, after leaving her goal area in the 12th minute.
The Starlets committed with more threatening attacks but failed to get a goal during the first 45 minutes.
Cameroon was 45 minutes away from picking the ticket to the next round of the qualifiers but Kenya shocked them.
A goalkeeping blunder from Lionesses shot stopper, Bihina, after a Cynthia Shilwatso free kick in the 76th minute, gave the Starlets the lead in the match.
The Kenyans would have doubled scores just two minutes after the lead, but a fast-attacking move from the Starlets saw the ball hit the goal post.
Cameroon’s rare chance to get an equaliser was at the 79th minute but Nchout Njoya Ajara, who came face to face with Kenyan keeper, failed to push the ball over the goal line.
The match ended 1-0 after regular time. With both teams tied on one goal each way after the two-legged match, the winner had to be decided on penalty shootout.
Kenya converted four of their five penalties while Cameroon scored three shots and lost two.
Naomi Eto, Toko Njoya and Nchout Ajara all converted their penalties while Charlene Meyong and Claudine Fallone faltered.
Lionesses head coach, Jean Baptiste Bisseck said he was disappointed that the team couldn’t make it to the second round of the qualification tournament.
The trainer was only appointed last month by the President of the Cameroon Football Federation, Samuel Eto’o Fils, with the mission to lead Cameroon to Morocco next year.
Cameroon’s defeat to Kenya and their subsequent elimination from the WAFCON 2024 in Morocco, was even more painful, because Cameroon has not missed out from the tournament in over three decades.
Since the first edition of the Women’s AFCON, which held in 1991, it will be the first time the Lionesses are failing to qualify for the competition.
The national women’s football team had participated in all editions of the tournament, though during the 1995 edition, they withdrew along the line.
Cameroon has never won the Women’s AFCON though finishing as runners-up in four editions.
Starlets coach says first objective attained
Coach Beldine Odemba told newsmen after the qualification of the Starlets to the second round of the WAFCON qualifiers that they had attained their first objective.
“I am happy but we played according to plan. In Cameroon, we lost by a solitary goal. We opened the game today which was part of our plan and we got a goal. We did not get another goal but we are very happy that we won.
First of all, we believe and we make the players to believe. We have massive talents. We have good girls and they are also playing in good teams, including those playing in and out of Kenya,” the trainer said.
Kenya are looking to feature in the WAFCON for only their second time after their maiden participation in the 2016 edition in Cameroon.
They next face Botswana in the second and final round of the qualifiers. Botswana eliminated Gabon on a 7-1 aggregate.