Favourites Struggle to Dominate at AWCON 2018
After a long drawn controversy over the eligibility of Equatorial Guinea to feature at the tournament, the 11th edition of the Africa Women Cup of Nations (AWCON) commenced on Saturday, 17 November, 2018 in Accra, Ghana; with the Central African nation admitted to participate, a decision which led to the expulsion of Kenya at the 11th hour.
Following the conclusion of matchday two in the group-stage, title-favourites Nigeria and Ghana surprisingly struggled to dominate, with the exception of South Africa and Cameroon, though all semi-final spots were potentially up for grabs as the teams headed into the final group-stage matches this weekend.
Gladys Amfobea’s 13th minute strike was the match-winner for hosts Ghana against Algeria in the opening game of the tournament, with the Black Queens gunning for a first continental title, but that quest became a bit tricky following defeat to Mali in the second group game, finally ending as they were held to a 1-1 draw with Cameroon on Friday.
Bassira Toure’s brace for the Malians rendered Elizabeth Addo’s penalty a mere consolation for the hosts, who faced the daunting task of requiring a win against group leaders Cameroon in their final group match, while hoping Mali will fail to secure an unlikely victory against the whipping ladies of the pool, Algeria.
Group leaders Cameroon have been in a class of their own at the ongoing competition, sealing a last four spot after their draw. The Lioness began their title bid with a comeback 2-1 win against Mali, before strikes from Gabrielle Onguene, Gaelle Enganamouit and Ajara Nchout sealed a comfortable 3-0 win over Algeria, who were bottom of the group with zero points and thus eliminated.
The only way Cameroon’s progression could have been stopped would have been a scandalous five-goal lost to hosts, Ghana while Mali pick up a routine win against Algeria. Judging by the Lioness’ dominance after two games, fans were certain of them bagging one of the three FIFA Women’s World Cup tickets and possibly a first-ever continental triumph.
Record champions Nigeria were stunned 1-0 by South Africa in their opening game, and asides Thembi Kgatlana’s stunning goal – which inflicted a first-ever opening game defeat on the Super Falcons — the overall performance of the 10-time champions in the loss was shambolic and their reputation was only partly redeemed in their 4 goal rout of Zambia.
Zambia in their first game were in no mood for any favours as they humiliated Equatorial Guinea 5-0, with a Racheal Kundananji second-half brace and Mary Mwakapila’s spot kick rounding up the victory in the closing stages, as the She-polopolo stamped their mark early on at the tournament.
Nigeria bouncing back in their second game, trouncing Zambia 4-0, while South Africa secured a massive 7-1 win over Equatorial Guinea to claim a second win, has put a clog in their wheel to qualification, as they face the Bayana Bayana this Saturday. South Africa lead the group with 6 points from two games and a healthy goal difference.
Goals from Desire Oparanozie, Francisca Ordega, Rasheedat Ajibade and Amarachi Okoronkwo secured victory for the Super Falcons against the She-polopolo, while reigning African Women Footballer of the Year, Asisat Oshoala like majority of her teammates has come off as underwhelming in Ghana. Expectations are still high, and if Nigeria are to make a big impression at this championship, then the China-based forward needs to rediscover her A-game and bring her scoring boot to the pitch.