Women's World Cup qualification: Nigeria reign supreme at AWCON
Credit: Getty/Segun Ogunfeyitimi/Gallo Images

Women's World Cup qualification: Nigeria reign supreme at AWCON

Nigeria, South Africa and Cameroon scooped the three CAF berths available for the 2019 World Cup 

chloe-leadbeater
Chloe Leadbeater

As the draw for the World Cup draws ever closer, so does the end of qualifying. Alongside the OFC, the CAF has its qualifying campaign late on. With some pleasant surprises along the way, Nigeria, South Africa and Cameroon claimed the three spots that were up for grabs.

Group A

Group A saw hosts Ghana, Cameroon, Mali and Algeria fight it out for further progression in the tournament.

Buoyed by the crowds in Accra, Ghana got their tournament off to a good start, with a close win over Algeria on the first matchday with Gladys Amfobea scoring the only goal of the game. Meanwhile, Mali took the lead near the hour mark through Aissata Traore but goals by Claudine Meffometou and Ajara Nchout saw them Cameroon grab the win.

On the second match day it was Ghana on the end of a defeat, a goal down after Bassira Toure first half penalty before Elizabeth Addo equalised from the spot for the Black Queens. It was another Toure goal that made the difference four minutes after the equaliser, gifting Mali the win. Afterwards, Cameroon surged ahead to the top of the table with a 3-0 win over Algeria, Nchout scored once again alongside Gabrielle Onguene and Gaelle Enganamouit to put the  Indomitable Lionesses ever closer to progression.

Going into the final game, Cameroon only needed a draw whereas Ghana and Mali both needed a win in order to progress. Cameroon took on Ghana and claimed their spot at the top of the group with a draw. The Black Queens went ahead through Portia Boayke half an hour in but just ten minutes later, Christine Manie equalised from 12-yards.

At the Cape Coast Sports Stadium, it wasn’t an easy game for Mali and the Female Eagles had to wait until stoppage time to secure their spot in the knock-outs. Algeria went ahead through Lydia Belkacemi but Mali equalised through Fatoumata Diarra early in the second half. Imene Merrouche slotted her penalty away to try and end Algeria’s qualification campaign on a good note but The Fennecs were pegged back through Aissatou Diadhiou 83 minute effort. Diarra's spot kick deep in second half stoppage time enough to have Mali finish second in the group.

Group B

Group B consisted of South Africa, Nigeria, Zambia and Equatorial Guinea.

Before the tournament, there was controversy surrounding Equatorial Guinea. Having fielded an ineligible player in qualification against Kenya for the final tournament, they were initially booted from the AWCON before a successful appeal had them reinstated with Kenya removed. The upshot was that they were banned from the World Cup and they wouldn't make the final tournament in France even if they finished in the final three in Ghana.

However, the central African nation had a tournament to forget and finished dead last in their group, following three losses. Trounced 5-0 by Zambia with goals from Grace Chanda, Ireen Lungu, Mary Mwakapila and a brace from Racheal Kundananji. Elsewhere in the group Nigeria, who have a spotless World Cup qualification record were handed a shock 1-0 defeat by South Africa when Thembi Kgatlana scored the winner just a few minutes from time to win it.

On the second match day in Group B, Nigeria faced Zambia, hoping to get some points on the board and they did so with a convince 4-0 win. It took a fair while for the Super Falcons to break the deadlock but they did so just before half time when Desire Oparanozie got them up and running for the tournament. After Oparanozie opened the scoring, Francisca Ordega, Rasheedat Ajibade and Amarachi Okoronkwo added to the goals, leaving Zambia with it all to do in their last match. 

Looking a composed and confident unit, South Africa easily saw off Equatorial Guinea 7-1. After Linda Motihalo's 19 minute penalty, Mpumi Nyandeni made it two moments later before Refiloe JaneAmanda Mthandi and Jermaine Seoposenwe all got their names on the scoresheet as Kgatlana bagged a brace.

Just like Cameroon in the other group, South Africa just needed a draw against Zambia and once again, a draw is exactly what happened. Both goals in the game were in the first ten minutes with Kgatlana scoring her fourth goal of the tournament and Kundananji scoring her third.

With Zambia drawing, Nigeria had to win their game to progress as with South Africa, the Super Falcons pulling no punches against Equatorial Guinea. A star in the team, Asisat Oshoala grabbed a hattrick after Ordega's opener with Oparanozie and Rita Chikwelu adding to scores.

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Semi Finals

In the first semi final, Cameroon faced Nigeria and it was a close fought match as 120 minutes wasn’t enough to separate the two with no goals scored. In a tournament full of spot kicks, it was almost no surprise that there was a shoot-out at the first turn with Nigeria victorious having put all four of their penalties away after Enganamouit and Genevieve Ngo Mbeleck missed theirs for Cameroon.

In the second semi-final, South Africa faced Mali with hopes of reaching their first ever World Cup. Having a storming tournament, Kgatalana gave Banyana Banyana the lead just after the half hour with Lebogang Ramalepe doubling the lead ten minutes from time. 

Grand and third-place finals

Having had an impressive tournament and with a place at the World Cup within reach, Mali finally met their match as they fell to Cameroon. Ninon Abena's quick-fire brace had the Indomitable Lionesses on top before Diarra claimed her third of the tournament on the stroke of half time. An own goal from Aurelle Awona restored parity ten minutes into the second half before goals from Onguéné and Manie left Mali with no room for a comeback with Cameroon reaching their second World Cup finals.

Assured a spot in France, no matter the outcome of the final, South Africa had become the latest World Cup debutants alongside Scotland, Chile and Jamaica. With both sides gunning for glory and the bragging rights as the champions of Africa, it was yet another close run match with the pair unable to be separated after 120 goalless minutes, including a penalty miss from Oshoala.

Starting their second shoot-out with a miss from Onome Ebi, the Super Falcons rallied to find the back of the net with each of their following four. Taking the lead in the shoot-out after Noko Matlou's clinically struck penalty, Banyana Banyana failed to find the same consistency as their opposition. With Ramalepe missing her penalty, Nyandeni made no mistakes before Mamello Makhabane got the better of Tochukwu Oluehi. Needing to score to take the shoot-out to sudden death, Motlhalo missed with the last kick of the ten, giving Nigeria their eleventh AWCOF title.

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