Portugal qualify for Fifa Women's World Cup after late penalty, VAR drama to beat Cameroon 2-1 in Hamilton

1 month ago Stuff.co.nz

Portugal and Cameroon were battling for one of the final places at this year’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

At Waikato Stadium, Hamilton: Portugal 2 (Diana Gomes 22, Carole Costa pen 90+4) Cameroon 1 (Ajara Nchout 89). HT: 1-0.

Portugal have qualified for the Fifa Women’s World Cup for the first time after Carole Costa’s stoppage-time penalty broke Cameroon’s hearts.

Costa’s assured strike in Wednesday night’s qualifying playoff in Hamilton was the history-making moment in a contest Portugal dominated for long spells, albeit without the comfort of a two-goal lead.

Portugal were awarded the penalty on a VAR review when Cameroon defender Estelle Johnson blocked a shot which struck her arm while making a desperate block.

Silva scored from the spot in the 94th minute to cancel out Cameroon captain Ajara Nchout’s equaliser in a frantic finish.

Cameroon thought they equalised in the 85th minute when Michaela Abam finished smartly from a break, but she was offside – confirmed by VAR – infuriating the African side’s vocal support amongst the 1,132 fans at Waikato Stadium.

The disallowed goal appeared to energise the Indomitable Lionesses, who then hit back four minutes later whe Nchout scored to ignite the dramatic conclusion after Diana Gomes’ first-half opener for Portugal.

Tensions were high because there was plenty at stake – a place at this year’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand – and there was an explosion of emotion at full-time.

Cameroon, who made the last two World Cups in 2015 and 2019, were crestfallen, in disbelief after losing in devastating fashion.

Portugal’s best results in women’s football were twice qualifying for the European Championships in 2017 and 2022.

Their jubilant players and staff sprinted on to the pitch after Costa’s penalty – then full-time – to celebrate the team’s greatest result.

There could be more to come when they play heavyweights United States, the reigning world champions, and the Netherlands in the World Cup’s group stage.

Portugal trounced the Football Ferns 5-0 at Waikato Stadium last Friday, but their trip to New Zealand was all about this fixture.

They controlled possession from the outset and were nearly ahead when Kika Nazareth’s header hit the post in the third minute.

Nazareth and star forward Jéssica Silva caused Cameroon the most problems all night.

Cameroon seemed frustrated and dropped deeper while the Portuguese crisply passed their way forward.

An inevitable breakthrough was via Nazareth striking the post again, with a fabulous free kick, and Gomes poked home the rebound.

Cameroon threatened on the break, but Portugal were closer to their second before half-time when Diana Silva headed inches wide and Gomes’ driven shot was well saved by 16-year-old goalkeeper Cathy Biya.

The Portuguese had more chances early in the second half – Andreia Norton rattled the bar from 30 yards – but Cameroon still believed while they score remained 1-0.

The big moment

The VAR asking referee Casey Reibelt to check if Johnson had indeed blocked a goal-bound shot with her arm.

She had, the penalty was awared, and Costa shot low past Biya’s left hand to send Portugal into the World Cup.

The big picture

Portugal join Haiti, who beat Chile 2-1 in Wednesday’s other playoff in Auckland to also qualify for their first World Cup.

Thursday’s final playoff in Hamilton, between Paraguay and Panama at 2pm, will confirm the World Cup’s 32nd team to complete the tournament’s line-up.

Portugal will return to Hamilton for their second match in group E against Vietnam on July 27.

They start their World Cup against the Netherlands in Dunedin before their third fixture against the United States in Auckland.

Watch coverage of the Football Ferns v Argentina and the Fifa Women’s World Cup Qualification Play-off Tournament live on Sky Sport or stream on Sky Sport Now.
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