Final slate of teams for African Women’s Cup of Nations 2018 confirmed
While Africa’s five representatives prepare to begin their Men’s World Cup journey, the final slate of teams have been confirmed for the African Women’s Cup of Nations.
The biennial tournament is not only the continent’s tournament for the top Women’s national teams, but also the road to the World Cup which will be held in France in 2019. Egypt did not enter qualification and thus have no way to qualify for the World Cup. The seven-time Men’s AFCON champions were joined by 28 other teams including Tunisia and Sudan in not entering qualifications.
This year’s competition was set to be hosted in Ghana, who qualified to the competition by being hosts. However with the recent Ghanian government decision to dissolve the Football Association, the country would be unable to host the competition unless their is a new FA that FIFA and CAF approve off before November. Thus, it could be possible that Ghana will be stripped of hosting rights and of their place at AWCON.
Less than two years after the Men’s National Team lifted the AFCON trophy, the Women’s national team qualified to their 13th competition. Nigeria is the only other team to have participated in every edition of the African Women’s Cup of Nations since its inception in 1991. The 2016 runners-up began their journey in the second round after receiving a bye in the first due to their high standing in the FIFA rankings. They were drawn against Congo whom they defeated 10-0 on aggregate to qualify to the competition.
Two-time champions Equatorial Guinea were disqualified from 2016’s competition after a CAF and FIFA decision. However, CAF’s decision was overturned in July 2017 allowing them to play at the competition this year. Since FIFA’s decision still holds, however, Equatorial Guinea will not be able to play at the World Cup next year however well they finish. After receiving a bye in the first round due to their FIFA ranking, the one time World Cup appearance maker faced Kenya. In the match in Kenya, Equatorial Guinea were shocked with a 2-1 loss after going ahead in the 38th minute. However, at home they were able to secure qualification with a 3-2 win on aggregate.
Banyana Banyana have qualified to their seventh straight African Women’s Cup of Nations, one of the longest runs on the continent. One of the nations to receive a bye in the first round of qualification, South Africa met Lesotho in the second round. After winning 1-0 in Lesotho, Banyana Banyana secured qualification after beating Lesotho 6-0 at home.
Algeria qualified to AWCON for the fourth time in their history. In the first round, the Fennecs beat Senegal 3-2 on aggregate after losing in Senegal 2-1 and winning in Algiers 2-0. They were drawn to face three-time appearance maker Ethiopia. In the first leg at the historic July 5 stadium, Algeria came from behind to win 3-1 before winning 3-2 in the second leg. The team is North Africa’s lone representation at the competition this year after Morocco and Libya failed to qualify from the first round and Egypt and Tunisia failed to enter qualifications for the 2018 edition.
By far the surprise of the qualifications, Zambia qualified to the second round of qualifications on away goals after drawing Tanzania 3-3 away and 1-1 at home. In the second round, Shepolopolo were drawn against their bitter rivals, the Mighty Warriors, Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe were the heavy favorites going into the matches and won the first leg 1-0. In the second leg, Zimbabwe went ahead in injury time of the first half, seeming to secure qualification. However, Zambia scored in the 54th and 87th minutes to send Shepolopolo to their third AWCON.
The Malian Women’s National Team provided the second shock of the qualifiers. The West African nation qualified to the second round after Sierra Leone withdrew. In the second round, the team faced one of Africa’s three representatives at the 2015 World Cup, Côte d’Ivoire. The tie was essentially decided in the first leg when Mali drew 2-2 in Côte d’Ivoire before the second leg ended in a 0-0 draw. The 2019 competition will be Mali’s seventh trip to the continent’s top competition.
CAF’s highest ranked nation according to the March 23rd FIFA rankings, Nigeria received a bye in the first round of qualifications. The Super Falcons qualified to the biennial competition after beating Gambia 1-0 away and 6-0 at home. Nigeria could become the only African nation to have both their Men’s and Women’s National Teams qualify to the 2018 and 2019 World Cups respectively. The ten-time continental champions can also become the only African nation to qualify and play in each edition of the Women’s World Cup.
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