South Africa are seeking qualification but more so ‘revenge’ when their opening match encounter is against three-time defending champions, Nigeria, who have won the tournament in 2014, 2016 and 2018 – the last win being over Banyana Banyana.
On Monday, Nigeria have a chance to tighten their grip on African women’s football.
South Africa 22/10
Nigeria are the record nine-time African champions and will open their AWCON 2022 campaign just as they ended the last edition against 2018 runners-up Banyana Banyana. The defending champions will tackle Botswana as well as Burundi in Group C and remain firm favourites to retain their prolific status. To say Nigeria have dominated this competition would be an understatement.
Barcelona star and Nigerian striker Asisat Oshoala says her side is looking beyond facing title rivals South Africa. She went on to state, “The opening fixture against South Africa is just the beginning, we have the likes of Cameroon, Morocco, and other great teams in Africa to face.” Oshoala is without question of doubt the go-to player for Nigeria.
The Super Falcons tactician, coach Randy Waldrum, feels sealing a ticket to the World Cup should be a priority since winning the Nations Cup is not as important, as he looks beyond Nigeria’s time in Morocco.
“World Cup qualification has always been the goal as much as we want to win the championship,” stated Waldrum as he sets his eyes on the time he hopes to spend in Australia and New Zealand.
Nigeria are expected to be the biggest hurdle in South Africa’s ambition to win their first AWCON. The players and coaching staff have major financial incentive from SAFA, but the pure delight of lifting the trophy is motivation enough.
Thembi Kgatlana undoubtedly headlines the Banyana Banyana squad, and arguably the 2022 AWCON tournament. The 2018 Africa Women’s Player of the Year has been grinding it out at Atletico Madrid, making 18 appearances and scoring four goals this past season.
Coach Desiree Ellis has gone for a blend of youth and experience with uncapped Nthabiseng Majiya to the side (youngest player in the team) having impressed in the in the local Hollywoodbets Super League after scoring nine goals in 10 games for Richmond United FC, coupled with veteran defender, Janine van Wyk who will captain South Africa.
Coach Ellis has warned the team to not make the mistake of focusing only on Nigeria and Cameroon‚ the strongest teams among the 12 nations competing in the 14th edition of the tournament.
She noted two major upsets in the run-in to 2022 AWCON stating, “We can’t underestimate anyone. They are there because they deserve to be there, and we saw Burundi beating Tanzania and Botswana.”
Prediction: Draw (22/10)
Nigeria are hoping to repeat 2018 final victory for in Accra (won via penalties), while South Africa will remember and hope to repeat the opening Group B game, which the South Africans surprisingly won 1-0, only their second victory over Nigeria. Both nations have played off the record friendlies in Morocco, but more importantly, have also gained vital playing time against European and overseas nations prior to landing in Northern Africa.
Banyana Banyana played three qualifying CAF Women’s African Cup of Nations and two international friendlies to make up their last five fixtures: 6-0-win vs Mozambique, 3-0 loss to Zambia, 2-0 win and 1-1 draw vs Algeria, and finally a 3-1 loss to world champions Netherlands.
The Super Falcons played three qualifying CAF Women’s African Cup of Nations and two international friendlies to make up their last five fixtures, as well: 1-0 loss to Ghana, 2-0 and 1-0 win vs Ivory Coast, followed by a 2-0 loss and 2-2 draw with Canada.
Both teams have individual brilliance and team cohesion from a lot of playing time together, as well as up and coming youngsters. All these elements blend well with the grit and determination for success. I really can’t separate the two and a draw is the likely outcome.