The 11th edition of the biennial African Women Cup of Nations (AWCON) kick-offs on Saturday, 17 November 2018 in Ghana, with the two week tournament scheduled to be hosted in two cities – Accra and Cape Coast. Ahead of the commencement of the competition which also serves as CAF’s qualifiers for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, with the top three teams securing progression; we look at key players that everyone will be expecting to shine and keep them entertained.

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Asisat Oshoala (Nigeria): Reigning CAF African Women’s Footballer of the Year and three-time winner of the award, Asisat Oshoala is undoubtedly the biggest name on the team selected by Thomas Dennerby, as Nigeria’s Super Falcons gun for a record 11th continental title and a third on the bounce.

The Dalian Quanjian forward is set to feature at her fourth Nations Cup, after previously emerging victorious in 2014 and 2016. Considering the Super Falcons’ inactivity over the last two years after claiming their last title in Cameroon, it’s only expected that the team’s quest for glory will largely depend on individual moments of brilliance, and Oshoala definitely will be banked upon to produce a good number of those memorable performances and match-winners.

Janine Van Wyk of South Africa during the SAFA Press Conference on 21 October 2015 at SAFA House Pic Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix

Janine van Wyk (South Africa): Bayana Bayana of South Africa captain Janine van Wyk is a highly experienced defender who will be aiming for a first continental win at this level for the Southern African nation. The 31-year-old Houston Dash defender is the most capped South African player of any gender with 150 international caps to her name. The Bayana Bayana have been drawn in Group B, with their matches holding in Cape Coast – alongside Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Zambia.

If they are to progress from what surely looks like the Group of Death, particularly as they come up against the Super Falcons challenge, their coach Desiree Ellis will expect her captain to provide the leadership and inspiration from the back, just like she did in 2012 when her stunning free-kick knocked Nigeria out at the semi-final stage.

The Equatorial Guinean soccer player Genoveva Añonma, during an image taken in November 2011. | Cordon Press

Genoveva Anonma (Equatorial Guinea): Her impressive individual honours list is presently one of the most eye popping on the continent. The forward has netted 24 times in 32 appearances for the Equatorial Guinea female national team, was top goal scorer in 2012 when her nation hosted and won the title for a second time, netted her nations only goals – two strikes – at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup and was included in the tournament’s all-star team, becoming the first African to claim the honour at that level.

At 29 and currently back home playing for domestic side Leones Vegetarianos after several years abroad, she definitely knows how to look after herself by applying the best game-management at this stage. However, one major issue which could deny her participation at the tournament is currently the on-going controversy over the inclusion of her country by the Confederation of African Football despite a global ban by FIFA, a decision which could see Equatorial Guinea thrown out ever before the first ball of the tournament is kicked.

Photo: Desire Oparanzoie of Nigeria. Credit: Getty Images

Desire Oparanozie (Nigeria): Big, strong, athletic, with a keen eye for goal, Nigeria’s number nine, Desire Oparanozie could easily step into the long-term shoes of former goal machine, Mercy Akide-Udoh.

The 24-year-old forward, who is currently based in France with Guingamp, is set to feature at her fourth African Women’s Cup of Nations, after her debut in 2010. Oparanozie is expected to be the Super Falcons’ main source of goals in Ghana, a task which surely shouldn’t weigh her down, rather give her the opportunity to thrive in flying colours after finishing as the tournament’s top goal scorer in 2014, as Nigeria clinched a ninth title.

Fafali Dumahisi (Ghana): Host nation Ghana are pooled in Group A in the capital city of Accra alongside Algeria, Mali and Cameroon. Any impending success for the Black Queens will largely depend on the form of influential goalkeeper Fafali Dumahisi.

The 24-year-old Police Ladies shot-stopper is set to feature at her third African Women’s Cup of Nations tournament after her maiden participation in 2014 and her wealth of experience will largely be counted on by coach Bashir Hayford and the entire nation.

Everyone will be expecting to have a great experience when the 8 women’s team clash in Ghana, as many pundits are tipping Nigeria to retain the title, while some believe it might finally be time for hosts Ghana to have an AWCON trophy to their name.

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