Chelsea’s Ali Riley and West Ham United’s Ria Percival played a full 90 minutes on Thursday evening as New Zealand exited the FIFA Women’s World Cup after suffering a 2-1 loss to Cameroon.
Cameroon’s Ajara Nchout’s hit a dramatic brace as she secured her side’s place in the knockout rounds with the last kick of the game. Her opener on the 57th minute was cancelled out by her own teammate 23 minutes later as the Ferns were given a lifeline. But it was late heartbreak for Riley and her side as they exited the tournament with no points after Nchout saw her side through with the final kick off the game.
Former FA Women’s Super League stars, Olivia Chance, Anna Green, Sarah Gregorius, Rosie White, Katie Duncan and Betsy Hassett, who used to represent Everton, Reading, Liverpool, Notts County and Manchester City respectively, also all featured in the match for the Ferns.
Despite the dramatic ending to the game, excitement in the first half was hard to come by as a physical battle between the two teams made chances tough to find in front of goal.
Chance carved open a rare opportunity for her side in front of goal in the 22nd minute as she dragged the ball past her marker on the edge of the box but she failed to hit the target as she slashed her shot over the goal.
Half-time injected a new lease of life into the game as former Liverpool striker, White, came close to putting her side ahead. Chance floated a high cross into the box but White was under the ball as the keeper comfortably saved her headed shot.
Cameroon opened the scoring on the 57th minute as Nchout grabbed her first of the afternoon. Yvonne Leuko lifted a short cross into the New Zealand box which was controlled by Nchout who turned in the area and smashed a low shot past Erin Nayler into the bottom right hand corner.
The Cameroon opener proved to be a wake-up call for the Ferns who began to test their opposition backline. Chance sought out Riley on the overlap who hit a strong cross deep into the Lionesses’ penalty box but Sarah Gregorius was only able to steer her header wide.
Nayler gave her side a lifeline on the 64th minute as she pulled off three spectacular consecutive saves to continue the goalkeeping excellence in the tournament. Gabrielle Aboudi Onguene began the Cameroon attack as she hit two quick and successive shots at the New Zealand keeper. After being denied twice, Alexandra Takounda lined up next to hit the rebound but Nayler came up large for her side to deny the Lionesses again.
The Ferns’ persistent threat was rewarded on the 80th minute as Katie Bowen’s bobbly cross was diverted past the Cameroon keeper by her own centre-back, Aurelle Awona. Hannah Wilkinson was waiting in the box for the cross from Bowen but Awona was first to meet the ball as her outstretched attempted clearance cancelled out Nchout’s opener.
New Zealand’s hopes of a round of 16 tie were heartbreakingly snatched away from them as Nchout dramatically netted the game’s winning goal in the 95th minute. Cameroon broke forward quickly and after flashing her skill just inside the area, Nchout found herself in an identical position as before as she slotted her effort past Nayler and into the bottom right hand corner.
With their qualification sealed for the knockout stages, Cameroon can potentially find themselves up against England and a host of FA Women’s Super League talent on Sunday evening.
By Shannon McLoughlan (@shanmcloughlan) – University of Derby Football Journalism student