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Portugal defeat Cameroon to earn World Cup debut with late Carole Costa penalty

Portugal beat Cameroon 2-1 in the inter-confederation play-offs in Hamilton thanks to Carole Costa's added-time penalty.

Portugal celebrate their dramatic victory against Cameroon
Portugal celebrate their dramatic victory against Cameroon FIFA via Getty Images

Portugal beat Cameroon 2-1 in Hamilton, New Zealand on Wednesday to earn a FIFA Women's World Cup debut in the inter-confederation play-offs with Carole Costa converting an added-time penalty.

The European contenders dominated from the off and struck midway through the first half when a Kika Nazareth free-kick hit the post and Diana Gomes pounced on the rebound. That looked like being enough, but in the 90th minute Ajara Nchout levelled.

However, an Estelle Johnson handball in the box earned Portugal a chance to restore their lead and Carole Costa made no mistake from the spot. Portugal will be back in New Zealand in July and August for Group E in the finals, where they meet the Netherlands, Vietnam and the holders, the United States.

Second in their qualifying group behind Germany, Portugal progressed to the UEFA play-offs and beat Belgium 2-1 and Iceland 4-1 after extra time. Holding the third best record of the three European play-off winners behind Switzerland and the Republic of Ireland, Portugal entered the inter-confederation play-offs.

Women's EURO highlights: Portugal comeback to hold Switzerland

The highest-ranked of the ten contenders, Portugal were placed as top seeds in the three-team Group A and given a bye to the final. So while Portugal won 5-0 against New Zealand in a friendly on Friday at Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, on Saturday, a 2-0 win for Cameroon against Thailand at the same venue in the Group A semi-final decided who would meet the European contenders for a finals spot.

The inter-confederation play-offs fill the last three of 32 spots in the finals in Australia and New Zealand, running from 20 July to 20 August 2023. Earlier on Wednesday, Haiti won 2-1 against Chile in Auckland thanks to a double from Melchie Dumornay, who will join Lyon from Reims in the summer, to earn a World Cup debut, where they will face England, China PR and Denmark in Australia-based Group D.

Panama are also heading for a first World Cup after beating Paraguay 1-0 in Hamilton though a goal from Sampdoria's Lineth Cedeño on Thursday to join Brazil, Jamaica and France in Group F.

Inter-confederation play-offs

Group A

Final: Wednesday 22 February
Portugal 2-1 Cameroon (Hamilton)
Semi-final: Saturday 18 February

Cameroon 2-0 Thailand (Hamilton)

Portugal to Group E with Netherlands, Vietnam, United States (holders)

Group B

Final: Wednesday 22 February
Chile 1-2 Haiti (Auckland)
Saturday 18 February
Senegal 0-4 Haiti (Auckland)

Haiti to Group D with England, China PR, Denmark

Group C 

Final: Thursday 23 February
Paraguay 0-1 Panama (Hamilton)
Semi-finals: Sunday 19 February

Chinese Taipei 2-2, 2-4 pens Paraguay (Hamilton)
Papua New Guinea 0-2 Panama (Auckland)

Panama to Group F with Brazil, Jamaica, France


Hosts: 2 (Australia, New Zealand)
AFC: 5 (China, Japan, Philippines*, South Korea, Vietnam*)
CAF: 4 (Morocco*, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia*)
CONCACAF: 6 (Canada, Costa Rica, Haiti*, Jamaica, Panama*, United States)
CONMEBOL: 3 (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia)
UEFA: 12 (Denmark, England, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Republic of Ireland*, Portugal*, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland)

*Debut: Haiti, Panama and Portugal qualify via inter-confederation play-offs.