Road to the World Cup: How Africa’s Top 3 Fared at AWCON 2018
Nigeria’s female national team, the Super Falcons, on Saturday won their ninth AWCON title in Ghana, after defeating Bayana Bayana of South Africa 4-3 on penalties. The tournament which also doubles as the African qualifiers to the 2019 FIFA women’s world cup to be hosted by France saw the champion, second and third-placed teams qualifying.
The 11th edition of the African Women Cup of Nations started on the 17th of November, 2018 in Accra, Ghana and ran until the final game on the 1st of December. A total of 53 goals (3.19 goals per match) were scored in the 16 game tourney, with Nigeria, South Africa and Cameroon contributing 31 of those goals. Probably a justification of their dominance at the tournament, these three teams will now 6represent the continent at the World cup next year.
The Super Falcons went into the tournament as favourites and they justified the tag by lifting their third consecutive AWCON title. Having won the AWCON 9 times, they are the only African side to have participated in all eight women’s world cup, with their best finish coming in 1999, when they got to the quarter-finals before losing to Brazil 4-3 after extra time.
It wasn’t a rollercoaster ride to the AWCON trophy this time, as it was in previous editions, as the Falcons lost their first game of the group to eventual runners up, South Africa. They showed their dominance in the second group game where they dispatched Zambia 4-0 before sealing qualification to the semifinals with a 6-0 triumph over 2008 and 2012 champions Equatorial Guinea. They faced Cameroon, who were group A winners in a semifinal match that the Lionesses hoped to use to avenge their loss in the 2016 final. The game ended 0-0 after 120 minutes before heading to penalties. Enganamouit and Ngo Mbeleck missed their spot kicks for Cameroon while the Falcons converted all of theirs to seal a record 9th final.
The final match against Bayana Bayana was a cagey affair with neither team able to break the deadlock in regular time. Asisat Oshoala missed a penalty for Nigeria in the 75th minute, after the South African goalkeeper had fouled woman of the final, Francisca Ordega, who plays for Atlético Madrid, in the penalty area. When the game was down to spot kicks, Onome Ebi missed Nigeria’s first penalty but was spared her blushes after two South African players missed theirs too. In the end, Onome Ebi and goalkeeper Tochukwu Oluehi made the tournaments best 11 for the super falcons.
By finishing second, South Africa are now headed to their first ever World cup next year, with their lead goalscorer, Thembi Kgatlana adjudged the best player of the tournament and highest goal scorer. She scored 5 goals in 5 matches, finding the back of the net in every match of the competition except the final, where she was closely marked by Osinachi Ohale and Onome Ebi. Bayana Bayana scored the most goals in the competition (11) with the highlight coming in their second group game where they walloped Equatorial Guinea 7-1. They played a very attractive brand of football and three of their players made the tournaments best eleven – Kgatlana, Van Wyk and Ramalepe.
Group A winners Cameroon settled for bronze after defeating tournament surprise team Mali 4-2; in what was their second encounter after they had earlier beaten them 2-1 in their opening game. Their second match in the competition was against Algeria which they won 3-0 and rounded off their group games with a 1-1 draw against hosts Ghana before losing 4-2 on penalties in the semifinal to Nigeria. Midfielder Raissa Fuedjo, Marlyse Ngo Ndoumbout and attacker Gabrielle Aboudi Onguene all made the tournament best eleven.
The eight edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup is billed to start on the 7th of June and run until the 7th of July, 2019. There will be 24 teams competing from six confederations across 9 different host cities. The 24 teams will be drawn into six groups of four teams, with the top two teams from each group and the best four third placed team qualifying for the knockout stages. The final match will be played at the Parc Des Princes in Paris on the 7th of July, 2019. Draws for the final tournament are expected to hold on 8th December 2018.