Chile closer to dream Olympic debut after first-leg win over Cameroon

The Chilean women's national football team defeated Cameroon in Antalya, Turkey, but late goal keeps Lionesses' hopes alive

By Ken Browne

Chile edged Cameroon 2-1 in the first leg of their football Olympic qualification playoff on Saturday 10 April in Antalya, Turkey.

Two goals from the central defensive pairing of Camila Saez and Carla Guerrero gave Chile a commanding lead, but Atletico Madrid striker Ajara Nchout Njoya cut the difference in half to keep her team alive in the tie.

Ranked 36th in the world, Chile have the upper hand heading into the second leg with the added advantage of two 'away' goals over World number 51 Cameroon.

The return leg will be played in the same stadium, here in the Arslan Zeki Demirci Sports Complex in Antalya, Turkey, due to the COVID-19 situation in both countries.

"It's the first step," said goal scorer Camila Saez post-match, "after they scored that goal in the second half we got a little desperate but managed to hold on at 2-1 which was super important."

"We have to keep working, we have another game and anything can happen in 90 minutes," Saez summed.

Chile and Cameroon are vying for one of two remaining places at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in summer 2021 and the second and decisive leg will be played on Monday 13 April.

Cameroon's captain Gabrielle Aboudi Onguéné who plays with CSKA Moscow said post-match that her team needed to improve their concentration and have more confidence:

"Now we need to rest, we have two days to prepare the second game."

Chile take early lead, Cameroon claw it back

Camila Saez had La Roja fans bouncing back home when she swooped on a near-post Yessenia Lopez cross in the 25th minute to glance in a header off Cameroon goalkeeper Michaely Bihina.

Saez, who plays with Rayo Vallecano in Spain, notched her 8th goal for Chile and was involved in the other key moment of the first half, completing a goal-line clearance after a brilliant save by PSG goalkeeper and Chile captain Christiane Endler.

The PSG stopper was crucial to Chile's victory coming up with big saves at pivotal moments, while the set-piece delivery of Yessenia Lopez proved essential too.

Carla Guerrero doubled the Chilean lead on 74' heading home a loose ball from a lovely curling left-footed Lopez corner and the tie looked all but over.

But just two minutes later the Indomitable Lions hopes of making the Olympics were brought back to life, the excellent Ajara latching on to a loose ball and driving it in off the post from the edge of the box.

The Cameroon pressed towards the end of the match as Chile tried to Protect their lead, Endler again coming up big in the final stages.

But La Roja held on, and that Olympic dream feels close, while the Cameroon will believe that they can turn this around

Women's football/soccer qualified teams at Tokyo 2020 Olympics

The ten teams who have already qualified for Tokyo 2020 are:

Japan, Brazil, New Zealand, Great Britain, Netherlands, Sweden, Canada, United States, Zambia, and Australia.

Joining them will be the winners of Chile v Cameroon, and China v South Korea, with China in the driving seat after they won 2-1 away from home in the first leg.

Both ties will be decided in return legs on 13 April while the Olympic finals draw is scheduled for 21 April at FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland.

How they made it here

Chile have had to wait three years for this chance to make their maiden Games, the runners-up at the 2018 Copa América Feminina to Brazil finally had their Olympic qualifier three years later.

Since then, they have played in the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup, where they exited at the group stage on goal difference.

Cameroon know the feeling.

At the March 2020 African qualifiers, Cameroon drew 4-4 on aggregate to Zambia, who grabbed the automatic spot at Tokyo on away goals.

Now at 2-1 in this play-off, it's still anyone's tie, and in two day's time we'll know who's booked their tickets to Tokyo.