Exactly four days to the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup kick off in France, TheCable is taking a closer look at the three countries that will represent the Confederation of African Football [CAF] at the mundial.
It has been a drought of sorts for African teams, and making quarter-finals in France will not be any easier for the threesome.
African teams have struggled to make an impact at the Fifa Women’s World Cup, aside from the 1999 (Nigeria) and 2015 (Cameroon) teams that advanced to the quarter-finals.
France 2019 seems to find all the three African representatives at something less than their best, Cameroon, perhaps in best position to survive group stage and perhaps even survive to the final eight.
Nigeria are considered the weakest team in Group A, which has hosts France, Norway as well as South Korea.
Despite qualifying for an 8th successive finals, the squad is short on World Cup quality.
With the likes of Ini Umotong, Courtney Dike and Josephine Chukwunonye not selected, much will depend on Asisat Oshoala, Desire Oparanozie, Ogonna Chukwudi and Francisca Ordega.
There is hope for the future with young players like Chiamaka Nnadozie, Chinaza Uchendu, Uchenna Kanu and Anam Imo making the cut.
Thomas Dennerby’s decision to rejuvenate the team could be costly in the short term, though it should serve Nigeria well at the long term.
The players will be better for their inclusion, but France will not be a wholly enjoyable experience for them.
Nigeria have had eight attempts at the World Cup and are yet to progress past the last 8. It is hard to see that changing here, although the players have promised to use their underdog tag as motivation.
Key player: Asisat Oshoala
The Barcelona attacker is Nigeria’s most talented player and still their chief attacking threat. Her pace – this is her second World Cup – will be vital.
High moment: The Super Falcons had their best performance at the 1999 World Cup when they crashed out in the last eight.
Prediction: Hard to see where they will get points from in a strong Group A. Should finish bottom. But hoping for the knock-out round place from the African champions.
Easily Africa’s best hope of a successful French campaign and the hands-down winner for the title for the continent’s most tactical team. They are a compact and composed outfit, with a style that is pleasing on the eye.
Their playmakers, Gabrielle Onguéné and Ajara Nchout, are the engineers of some well-crafted football, while set-piece expert Madeleine Ngono Mani and striker Gaëlle Enganamouit carry a considerable goal threat.
In Alain Djeumfa, Cameroon have a wily coach. His greatest task, though, will be to make sure his side’s attacking focus does not leave the defence vulnerable.
The Indomitable Lionesses have had problems there in the recent past, but matched their opponents up front or simply outscored them, as evidenced in their 4-0 win over Levante in a recent friendly.
They contest an even-looking Group E with Canada, New Zealand and Netherlands, in what will be their second consecutive finals. They also have their best opportunity to make it to the semi-finals, where potential opponents must treat them with cautious respect.
Key player: Gabrielle Onguéné
The playmaker stands out for her mobility and her exquisite attacking threat. Cameroon’l’s play centres around the CSKA Moscow winger.
High moment: Impressed in 2015, when they reached the quarter-finals.
Prediction: They will try but crash out in the first round.
Debutants South Africa are energetic and enthusiastic. They finished second behind Nigeria at the 2018 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON).
If South Africa are to stand any chance of advancing, a positive result in the opener against Spain is vital.
Banyana Banyana have their togetherness, the influx of young players and the experience of the head coach, Desiree Ellis – won the hearts of South African fans and the nation will be watching in anticipation when they go into battle in France.
The team will be reliant on their attackers to help push them forward in France, with their threat up front having been one of their main strengths under Ellis – they scored 24 goals between March and October when they managed to find the net in 10 consecutive games – and they have a host of attack-minded players who already have experience of playing club football outside the country.
One slight problem is that their conversion rate could be better – they create many more chances than they take.
Players such as Thembi Kgatlana, Linda Motlhalo, Rhoda Mulaudzi, Jermaine Seoposenwe, Refiloe Jane and Leandra Smeda will all be looking to chip in with goals and assists wherever possible, using the skills that they have picked up on their travels.
Much depends on the defensive axis of captain Janine van Wyk and Noko Matlou.
Key player: Thembi Kgatlana
The Beijing Phoenix forward has proven talent and can operate through the middle or on the flanks.
High moment: An easy one. They qualified for World Cup for the first time in their history following a second place finish at the 2018 African Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON).
Prediction: South Africa’s chances depend on the encounter with Spain, who should have too many guns for their opponents. Bottom place appears most likely.
Source: Remi Sulola| The Cable