Zambia rode their good fortune to claim the bronze medal at the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations finals in Casablanca on Friday with an upset 1-0 victory over Nigeria in the third and fourth place playoff.
A fortuitous own goal just before the half hour mark handed Zambia a first ever win over the Super Falcons and consolation for their controversial semifinal defeat to South Africa at the start of the week.
The win was hard fought as they weathered Nigeria’s attacks and domination of possession while looking to threaten on the counterattack.
The Super Falcons, reportedly refusing to train earlier this week in an effort to get paid by their federation, were guilty of wasting numerous chances as they finished outside the top three at a continental championship for only the second time.
They had quickly imposed themselves on the game but had only one effort on target in the opening quarter-hour when Ngozi Okobi Okeoghene’s lofted left footed shot was easily caught by Zambia’s influential goalkeeper Hazel Nali.
Nigeria’s Christy Ucheibe missed from close range with a half volley in the 23rd minute after American-born Ifeoma Onumonu set up the opportunity as the Super Falcons continued to look the more enterprising of the two teams.
But six minutes later Zambia went ahead after a surging run down the left wing by flying fullback Martha Tembo, whose cross was not properly cleared and fell for teenager Evarine Katongo to hit a powerful effort from the edge of the area that hit the upright and rebounded into the face of Nigeria goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie for an unfortunate own goal.
Nigeria might have been level in the 38th minute when Gift Monday got her head to Regina Otu’s cross but hit the post and then could not bundle the rebound into the net.
Ashleigh Plumptre’s freekick in the 42nd minute produced a spectacular save out of Nali as Zambia continued to keep their goal intact.
After the break, Nigeria had another chance for the 20-year-old Monday but she hit her effort from close range narrowly wide, toe-poking the ball and losing the accuracy.
She flashed wide again 10 minutes later in another clear chance, setting it up well by tricking the Zambian defence but then missed the target again.
At the other end, Zambia’s Grace Chanda had several half chances to double Zambia’s lead but did not take up the opportunities. But she remained a threat as Nigeria kept a wary eye on her.