African octet eye France 2019 berths
2018 CAF Women’s Africa Cup of Nations set to get under way
Tournament hosts Ghana among the favourites
Three tickets to France 2019 available
Only four places at the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ remain to be claimed. One of them will go to the best team in the Oceania Zone and the other three will be allocated at the upcoming 2018 CAF Women’s Africa Cup of Nations.
FIFA.com sets the scene for the competition and runs the rule over the contenders. Surprisingly, Côte d’Ivoire are not among them. Having made it to the last world finals in Canada in 2015, the Ivorians will not be vying for glory this time, after falling in the last round of qualifying.
The lowdown on the 2018 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations
When: 17 November to 1 December Where: Ghana (Accra and Cape Coast) Qualified teams: Group A: Ghana, Mali, Cameroon, Algeria Group B: South Africa, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Zambia Format: two groups of four, with the top two in each group going through to the semi-finals Stakes: the winners, runners-up and third-placed team all qualify for France 2019
Perhaps that heading should read, “The favourite”, for the simple reason that Nigeria have won the competition ten times out of a possible 12 since it was first held. And on the two occasions when they failed to lift the trophy, the Super Falcons reached the semi-finals. Not surprisingly for a team with such an impressive record they are strongly fancied to land another African title, thanks in no small part to the front line formed by Asisat Oshoala, Francisca Ordega and Desire Oparanozie.
The two continental crowns that escaped Nigeria’s grasp were both claimed by Equatorial Guinea, who are also rightly regarded as genuine contenders. Initially suspended on administrative grounds, the Nzalang Nacional have recently been cleared to play in the competition, having beaten Kenya to qualify. They however will not be in contention for a place at France 2019.
A major power on the African women’s football scene, Ghana are looking to return to the world finals for the first time since 2007. The Black Queens will hope to make the most of home advantage and claim a top-three finish. Meanwhile, Cameroon, who made their Women’s World Cup debut in Canada four years ago, would look to have a genuine chance of appearing on the global stage again. The Indomitable Lionesses finished runners-up to Nigeria at the last two continental finals and are keen to go one better this time around.
Aside from the aforementioned favourites, the other leading contender for a place at France 2019 are South Africa, the winners of this year’s COSAFA Women’s Cup. The Banyana Banyana beat Lesotho 7-0 on aggregate to secure their ticket to Ghana and are captained by Janine van Wyk, the most capped player in African football – men’s and women’s. Their sights are set on nothing less than a place on the podium.
Algeria are taking part in the African finals for the fifth time and would be more than happy with a semi-final place. The Fennecs Dames (“Female Desert Foxes”) suffered a major blow, however, when forward Naima Bouhani picked up an injury in the countdown to the tournament. Making their second appearance in the competition, Zambia will be keen to spring a surprise or two.
Last year’s COSAFA Women’s Cup runners-up, the Shepolopolo built on that promising showing by knocking out Zimbabwe to qualify for Ghana 2018. After losing 1-0 at home in the first leg, they recorded a 2-1 win in the return to advance on the away-goals rule. Finally, Mali are under no illusions about the task awaiting them in a Group A in which Cameroon and Ghana start as the most fancied sides. Reaching the last four for the first time in their history would be quite an achievement for the Malians.
What they said
“We’re not scared of anyone. All the teams are there to win the trophy, which is our objective too. There won’t be an easy match but we know what we have to do.” Ghana coach Bashirou Hayford
“If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. We’ve played the three teams in our group before so we know what to expect.” South Africa coach Desire Ellis