Kenya, Nigeria and Zambia on the verge of  U17 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualification

Nigeria's Super Falcons celebrate their FIFA Women's World Cup victory against Australia. PHOTO -FIFA.jpg

The FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup is a biennial international women’s association football tournament for female players under the age of 17. Three African teams will participate in this year’s edition, in the Dominican Republic. 

By Oliver Ochieng 

Kenya, Nigeria and Zambia are on the verge of booking slots for the 2024 edition of the U17 FIFA Women’s World Cup, after registering morale boosting wins in the first legs of the fourth and final round of qualifier matches, over the weekend.  

In Monrovia, Liberia, the Flamingos of Nigeria thrashed the hosts 1-4 in what turned out to be a one sided encounter. Abidemi Moshood opened the goals’ floodgates for Nigeria in the 19th minute, before Peace Effiong made it two 10 minutes later. 

Harmony Chidi stretched the lead in the 36th minute, before Blessing Ifitezue wrote her name on the score sheet with her strike 16 minutes before the end of the match. Yassah Gwaikolo scored a consolation goal for the hosts in the 87th minute.

At the Heroes Stadium in Lusaka, Zambia, the hosts made a resounding statement defeating a decent Morocco side 3-1. The star of the show for Copper Princesses was the prolific Namute Chileshe, who netted a sensational hat-trick to put her side in the driving seat ahead of the return fixture this weekend.

According to CAF online, the young Zambian striker wasted no time in announcing her presence, taking the initiative to open the scoring in the 13th minute. Blessed with blistering pace and astute reading of the game, Chileshe embarked on a solo run that ultimately doubled Zambia’s advantage.

Zambia’s second goal ‘woke up the lion in Morocco,’ as the Atlas Lionesses responded through Azraf Kautar’s goal to reduce the deficit. However, Chileshe was undone as she completed her hat-trick towards the end of the match, sealing a comprehensive 3-1 victory for the hosts.

At Abebe Bikila Stadium in Ethiopia, Kenya’s Junior Starlets outclassed hosts Burundi 0-3, and are on the brink of World Cup qualification, for the first time in history. Lorna Faith broke the deadlock in the 11th minute, before Marion Serenge struck to stretch the lead in the 43rd minute.

Susan Akoth sealed a crucial away victory in the 71st minute. Kenya will host the second leg in Nairobi over the weekend. With a 3-0 lead, Junior Starlets are 90 minutes away from qualifying for the FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup, a feat that will secure them a place in the history books as the first Kenyan national team ever to reach the global stage.

“Super proud of you my special girls,” said Ababu Namwamba, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Sports, after the convincing win.

“Let us finish the job at home in a week, then pack your bags for the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean for the FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup. Kenya’s first ever appearance at any FIFA World Cup,” he added.

With the stellar performances in the first legs, Kenya, Zambia and Nigeria are on the verge of taking up the three African slots up for grabs. A win or draw for the three East, Central and West African sides against Burundi, Morocco and Liberia in the second legs this coming weekend will be enough for an opportunity to host the CAF flag during FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup.

The FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup is a biennial international women’s association football tournament for female players under the age of 17. It was initiated in 2008. Spain are the current champions, having won the second title at the 2022 edition in India.

Dominican Republic will host the 8th edition of the tournament from October to 16th to November 6th 2024, with 16 teams vying to become world champions.  

North Korea (2008), (South Korea (2010, 2016), France (2012), Japan (2014), and Spain (2018, 2022) are the former champions. Third place finishes for Ghana in 2012 and Nigeria in 2022 were the best performances for African teams.