PARIS • Nigeria and Cameroon had to endure an identical nail-biting finish on Thursday as two African teams reached the knockout phase of the Women's World Cup for the first time in the competition's history - though only one was playing.
The Super Falcons were sweating on results from the evening's final round of Group F games going their way after a 1-0 loss to France on Monday left them third in Group A on three points.
Chile needed to beat Thailand by three goals to bump the Nigerians out of the event. When the South Americans were awarded a late penalty, having already established a 2-0 lead, it appeared that Thomas Dennerby's players were heading for an early flight home.
But in a twist of fate, Francisca Lara smacked her spot kick against the bar, and the Thais held firm in the closing minutes, allowing Nigeria to qualify for the last 16 as one of four best third-placed sides on goal difference, setting up a clash with Germany today.
The final whistle sparked wild celebrations from Dennerby's women, who had been on tenterhooks and glued to the televised game in their Rennes hotel.
A Twitter video posted by Fifa went viral, showing the Nigerian team whooping and dancing with joy after they ended their 20-year drought of failing to make it to the next round.
Own goals scored at the Women's World Cup so far, matching the total from the last tournament in 2015.
Of the six goals scored by the Netherlands at the Women's World Cup, three have been headers.
Cameroon also had to wait until the death, but Ajara Nchout's stunning goal with 10 seconds of the allotted five minutes of added time remaining gave the Indomitable Lionesses a 2-1 Group E victory over New Zealand and a tally of three points.
The forward was the heroine of the night, having opened the scoring before an own goal by Aurelle Awona levelled matters. Like Nigeria, Alain Djeumfa's players guaranteed their last-16 meeting with England as another of the best third-placed teams on goal difference.
Afterwards, their coach revealed he was "looking forward" to pitting his wits against Phil Neville, the Three Lionesses' boss.
Djeumfa said: "I know the girls inside out, we've spent 10 years together. I know their strengths and weaknesses. We've played against Canada, we've played against the team that's top (the Netherlands), we'll play our best (in Sunday's fixture against England)."
The Dutch breached Canada's normally rock-solid defence, securing them a 2-1 win that meant the Oranje finished with a 100 per cent record, with the Canadians in second, and a match-up against Japan on Tuesday.
Also, the United States beat Sweden 2-0 to maintain the defending champions' winning run, topping Group F with three victories in as many games to set up a last-16 clash with Spain on Monday, with the Swedes taking on Canada the same day.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
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