Harambee Starlets eliminate Cameroon in Wafcon qualifiers

Wednesday September 27 2023
Harambee Starlets players celebrate

Harambee Starlets players celebrate after winning their Women Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match against Cameroon at Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi, Kenya on September 26, 2023. PHOTO | NMG


Kenya's Harambee Starlets are through to the second round of the 2024 Women Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon) qualifiers after edging out Cameroon 4-3 on post-match penalties following a 1-1 aggregate score over two legs. 

Super sub Cynthia Shilwatso's second half goal was all Kenya needed to level the fixture after going down 1-0 to Cameroon in the first leg played last week. 

Mwanahalima Jereko, Sheryl Angachi, Violet Nanjala and Cynthia Shilwatso all scored in the lottery while Ruth Ingotsi missed. 

Naomi Eto, Toko Njoya and Nchout Ajara all converted their penalties for Cameroon while Charlene Meyong and Claudine Fallone faltered. 

The match proceeded straight to penalties and it's Kenya who emerged 4-3 winners. Coach Beldine Odemba's charges will now face Botswana who beat Gabon 7-1 on aggregate.

Botswana had thumped Gabon 4-1 away last Friday before confirming their place in the second with a 3-0 home win on Tuesday. 


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"We were not intending to lose again at home and played according to plan. We are capable of getting more goals, but we thank God for the one goal. We made tactical changes in the second half, and it worked because we played as a team. A tough assignment awaits, and work begins immediately," said Kenya head coach Beldine Odemba. 

"We knew we wouldn't disappoint our fans who had come out to support us. We had a meeting among ourselves (as players) without the team officials and planned to outshine our opponents at home and that is what we have done. We are now shifting our focus to the next game," said Kenya goalkeeper Aneddy Kundu who saved Meyong's penalty in the shootout.

Kenya dominated the first half, creating scoring chances through set-pieces failed to convert with midfielder Corazone Aquino culpable on several occasions. 

The visitors were unlucky in the 22nd minute when striker Michael- Batya Bisi wasted a clear-cut chance sending her shot over the bar.

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Kenya's best chance arrived in the 40th minute from defender Vivian Nasaka's throw in, but striker Terry Engesha's shot went straight into the hands of Cameroon custodian Ness Atrimitou.

Odemba rung changes in the second half introducing Elizabeth Wambui for Engesha, Cynthia Shilwatso for Esse Akida and Ketsia Ngaira for Aquino.

Cameroon made a triple substitution with Achta Toko Ndjoya replacing Monique Ngock, Naomi Leslie Njoah Eto coming in for Jeannette Grace and Gebevieve Edith for Charlene Iverna.

Shilwatso thought she had scored in the 67th minute but her effort came off the post from substitute Nanjala's cross.

But her long-range drive from a freekick finally provided the breakthrough after goalkeeper Atrimitou fumbled in her handling. 

The defeat means Cameroon will not take part in Wafcon for the first time in over two decades.

They have reached the Round of 16 in two World Cup participations and were eliminated at the group stages at the London 2012 Olympics.

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The Indomitable Lionesses have finished as runners-up of the Wafcon four times since their first participation in 1991. This is the first time ever that Cameroon has not qualified for the Women's Afcon since inception in 1991.

The non-qualification adds to the near dismal football fortunes of the country under current Fecafoot president Samuel Eto'o Fils.

The two-leg Wafcon qualifier is also a baptism of fire for coach Jean Baptiste Bisseck, appointed recently with the mission to qualify the girls for the Morocco tournament.

Eto'o appointed Bisseck just last month to lead the female team replacing Gabriel Zabo who led the Indomitable Lionesses to the quarterfinals in the last Wafcon. But he has rather baptised the girls to their first-ever non-qualification.

Additional reporting by Eugene Ndi - Nation correspondent based in Yaounde, Cameroon.