Impetus’ new African Football Correspondent Emmanuel Faith and Blaise Ogutu provide us with all the details from the group stages of the Women’s African Cup of Nations (WAFCON) African’s continental international competition (13/7/22).
Above: South Africa’s Thembi Kgatlana, whose loss from injury in the group stages is a major blow for the Banyana Banyana. Photo: CAF Online.
It is quite a busy summer for female football, with Euros being at the frontline, and CONCACAF championship ongoing which also doubles as the region’s world cup qualifier. However, there is a lot of excitement going on in the Northern part of Africa as far as female football is concerned. Morocco is hosting the WAFCON – the first time a North-African country would be hosting the competition, and it has lived up to its expectations.
To say the hosts dominated the group would not be an understatement. From becoming the first country to win their first three matches, to outstanding individual performances displayed by their captain Ghizlane Chebbak, the Atlas Lionesses have sent a warning to the rest of the continent with their almost flawless delivery of gracious football.
Morocco kicked off the tournament with an easy 1-0 win over debutants Burkina Faso courtesy of a goal by Ghizlane Chebakk in the 29th minute. The Atlas Lionesses comfortably steam-rolled through the group with another two wins afterwards; a 3-1 win over Uganda saw them through to the next stage. They also earned a 1-0 win over Senegal.
The Senegalese picked up the second qualification slot from the group after winning two matches and narrowly losing to the host. They haven’t been convincing so far as two of their three goals have come from penalties. The Zambian team would be a great test of their quality as they seek to book a World Cup ticket for 2023.
Burkina Faso and Uganda drew in their final group game, a result that helped neither of the teams get out as one of the best third-placed teams.
After playing a goalless draw in their match against Cameroon, the She-polopolo of Zambia edged out the Tunisian women by a goal to nothing before thumping Togo by four goals to one to secure the top spot in Group B.
The Indomitable Lionesses of Cameroon had a struggling start after two draws but an early goal from Michaela Abam and another one in the closing moments of the final game from their captain, Ajara Nchout, ensured they booked a slot in the quarter-finals while they would be facing the current holder of the championships, the Super-Falcons of Nigeria.
Winning a match was sufficient for Tunisia to progress to the quarter-finals, they would however have to improve a lot on their performance to have any chances of eliminating the athletic ladies from South Africa.
Opening the tournament with a victory over uncoordinated Nigeria was a perfect way to make a statement, but going on to secure three wins (the only team to do so asides the host country) could be a shadow of things to come for South Africa‘s Banyana Banyana women.
Two second half goals by Jermaine Seoposenwe and Hildah Magaia were enough for South Africa to put away the Super Falcons who got their consolation goal in added time but it was too little too late to get an equalizer
While losing their major playmaker, Thembi Kgatlana, to an injury might be a slight dent to their performance, they would have their gaze on booking a consecutive World Cup ticket when they meet Zambia in their next match.
Despite losing the first match to South Africa and losing their star player to injury, Nigeria’s Super Falcons had the highest number of goals scored and the highest goal difference during the group stages. The coach has explored different alternatives in the forward-line, however it is the Atletico-Madrid feminine attacking midfielder, Rasheedat Ajibade that has stepped up the most, having two goals and two assists in their last two games.
A quarter-final against Cameroon would be a challenge to relish for the nine times continental champion as they keep their focus on securing a ninth consecutive World cup ticket.
With a brilliant display in their opening match, Bostwana picks the second “best-loser’s” ticket to earn their spot in the quarter-finals, where they square up with the hosts. That performance saw them produced the highest goalscoring game of the tournament so far defeating Burundi 4-2. The Mares put on a show with a brilliant brace from Refilwe Tholakele.
The knock-out round kicks off today with hosts Morocco facing Botswana, and Zambia clashing with Senegal. The following day sees Cameroon entertain Nigeria who will be without star striker Asisat Oshoala for the rest of the tournament. The other game on Thursday features a north vs south clash as South Africa battles Tunisia at the Stade Prince Moulay Al Hassan without prolific forward Thembi Kgatlana who was injured in the final group game.
An entertaining knock-out phase lies ahead of us in the African Cup of Nations and we’ll be looking forward to more brilliant football from Morocco.
To find out more about our newest writer Emmanual Faith and all our team of contributors, click here: https://impetusfootball.org/about-our-contributors/