Africa’s qualifiers for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Japan later this year are down to the last eight teams and the penultimate round of competition. Nigeria, who were runners-up at the last tournament in Germany in 2010, progressed to the second qualifying round without kicking a ball after the withdrawal of their scheduled opponents Sierra Leone.

The Falconets are joined by Ghana, who were also in the field at the last FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, and the Congo DR, who played at the 2006 tournament in Russia and again in 2008 when the finals were hosted by Chile. Also through are Kenya, Mali, South Africa, Tunisia and Zimbabwe. The next round of knockout matches will be played over two legs at the end of March and in April after which there will be a last round of qualifiers to establish the identity of the two countries who will go to Japan in August as Africa’s representatives.

Princesses eye South Africa clash
Ghana had a runaway 10-0 aggregate triumph over Namibia, winning 3-0 away in the return leg at the Sam Nujoma Stadium in Windhoek on Saturday. Mercy Myles opened the score before a second half free kick was expertly converted by Debora Afriyie. Beatrice Sesu completed the rout for the ‘Black Princesses’ with long range shot some 90 minutes from the end.

Next up for Ghana will be a tougher challenge surely as they will take on South Africa, who won 3-1 at home in Benoni in the second leg of their tie against neighbours Botswana for a 7-2 aggregate triumph. Jermaine Seoposenwe made amends for earlier misses when she put South Africa into the lead in the 22nd minute. On the stroke of halftime, Botswana found the equaliser through Phatsimo Bosa after a defensive blunder by the home side.

A lot of work needs to be done as we'll obviously be facing stronger opposition in the second round.

South Africa coach Sheryl Botes looks ahead to the Ghana match

In the second half, the Basetsana had three efforts ruled offside before they added two more goals through second half substitutes Shiwe Nogwanya and Elizabeth Mashilo respectively. “A lot of work needs to be done as we'll obviously be facing stronger opposition in the second round, and I will be looking into bringing in new players as we prepare for that match," said South Africa coach Sheryl Botes.

DR Congo hold off Cameroon
The Congolese overcame a tough Cameroon side in the closest fought of the first qualifying round ties, succeeding 3-2 on aggregate. The weekend’s match at the cavernous Martyrs Stadium in Kinshasa ended 1-1, although the home side were ahead after just 13 minutes through Sophie Baenga, which put the Congolese two goals clear on aggregate and effectively meant they were never really under much threat, even after Cameroon equalised through Ariane Beyene. Next up for the Congolese are Mali, who won 2-1 in Equatorial Guinea for a 6-1 aggregate triumph.

Rutendo Makore scored a hat trick as Zimbabwe beat Mozambique 3-0 away in Maputo on Saturday night for a runaway 7-0 aggregate triumph. It was a game that started late after the scheduled match officials failed to arrive and an emergency refereeing team were flown in from nearby South Africa. Heavy rains also made it tough for the two teams. Zimbabwe now play Nigeria while coach Langton Giwa says Zimbabwe would return to training later this week after a short break.

Kenya’s coach Florence Adhiambo was overjoyed at her side’s 4-0 win over Zambia, who had a narrow 2-1 lead from the first leg in February. “I don’t have the words to describe how I feel,” she told local reporters. “We played and prayed at the same time.” Sharon Busienai, Wendy Asul from the spot, Neddy Atieno and Mural Auma were the scorers for the Kenyans, who are the only side left that came through the preliminary round of qualifying.

There was a consolation win for Morocco away in Tunisia, but their 1-0 triumph did little to wipe out the 0-5 loss at home suffered two weeks earlier. Tunisia and Kenya now meet in the next round.

Sierra Leone withdrew, Nigeria receive a bye
Zimbabwe 3-0 Mozambique, Zimbabwe advance 7-0 on aggregate
Mali 2-1 Eq. Guinea, Mali advance 6-1 on aggregate
Cameroon 1-1 DR Congo, DR Congo advance 3-2 on aggregate
Zambia 0-4 Kenya, Kenya advance 5-2 on aggregate
Morocco 1-0 Tunisia, Tunisia advance 5-1 on aggregate
Botswana 1-3 South Africa, South Africa advance 7-2 on aggregate
Ghana 3-0 Namibia, Ghana advance 10-0 on aggregate

Next Fixtures
Mali-Congo DR
Ghana-South Africa