Advantage Uganda as Crested Cranes beat Cameroon in 2024 Olympic Qualifiers

Crested Cranes player in action against Cameroon in the Women's Olympic Football Qualifiers on Thursday, October 26, 2023

AFCON Olympic Qualifiers 2024
Uganda 2-0 Cameroon

Kampala, (UG): The Ugandan Women’s football team, Crested Cranes Thursday emerged victorious against Cameroon in a crucial match that could determine their fate in the qualifiers for the Paris 2024 Olympics Football Tournament.

The game held at the FUFA Technical Centre in Njeru marked the first for interim head coach Charles Ayiekho Lukula, who introduced new faces to the starting lineup, including defender Justine Najjuko and midfielder Zaitun Namaganda.

From the start, the Crested Cranes exhibited a collective and spirited effort, earning themselves a 2-0 lead against their formidable opponents. 

Catherine Nagadya and Fazila Ikwaput were the heroes of the match, scoring a goal each in different halves to ensure the Crested Cranes go into the second leg with a two-goal lead.

The game was witnessed by FUFA President Hon. Magogo Moses Hassim and some of the FUFA Executive Members.

Nagadya struck gold for Uganda in the 11th minute, taking advantage of a goalkeeping error by Cameroon’s Michaely Bihina. 

Bibina failed to control Shamirah Nalugya’s powerful free kick, allowing Nagadya to pounce on the rebound and send the ball into the back of the net.

Cameroon had a chance to level the playing field when they were awarded a penalty in the 30th minute after Justine Najjuko was adjudged to have handled the ball in the box.

However, Cameroon captain Ajara Njoya’s penalty hit the base of the post, and her subsequent attempt from the rebound failed to find the target.

The Crested Cranes player in action against Cameroon in the Women’s Olympic Football Qualifiers on Thursday afternoon

Throughout the match, the Crested Cranes demonstrated a resilient defence, with goalkeeper Vanessa Edith Karungi making remarkable saves to deny the visitors any chance of a comeback. 

As the second half began, Coach Lukula made strategic changes, bringing in Bridget Nabisaalu and Asia Nakibuuka to replace Najjuko and Namaganda, respectively. 

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When Phiona Nabbumba got injured, she was substituted by Jackline Adong, who made her debut.

In the 77th minute, Uganda extended their lead as Ikwaput capitalized on a confused defence to secure the second goal. 

Fauzia Najjemba’s efforts on the left wing created the opportunity for Ikwaput, who initially missed her shot but made no mistake with the second attempt, leaving the Cameroonians stunned.

With time running out, substitutions continued with Elizabeth Nakigozi and Joan Ainembabazi replacing the goal scorers Nagadya and Ikwaput, respectively. 

As the final whistle blew, Uganda celebrated their well-deserved 2-0 victory, taking a significant advantage into the return leg set to take place in Yaounde, Cameroon next week.

The winner between Uganda and Cameroon will proceed to face either Nigeria or Ethiopia in the next phase of the Olympic Football Tournament Qualifiers. 

The Crested Cranes XI that started against Cameroon in the Women’s Olympic Football Qualifiers

The road to Paris 2024 doesn’t end here. The competition intensifies with the third round, featuring the eight victorious teams from the second round, competing in home-and-away fixtures.

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The ultimate prize awaits in the fourth round, where the four victorious teams from the third round will face off in two home-and-away clashes, with two golden tickets to the Olympic Games up for grabs.

The Paris 2024 Women’s Olympic Football Tournament, is set to run from July 25th to August 10th.

Africa’s finest will now battle it out for their place on the world’s biggest sporting stage. The journey is just beginning, but the destination is the Olympic dream.

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