Mathematically, all eight teams at this year’s Women’s Africa Cup of Nations still have a chance of progressing to the knockout stage of the tournament going into the final round of group matches. However, some teams have better chances than others.
While Cameroon and South Africa are the only teams that have their destiny in their own hands, it would take only a momentous miracle for Equatorial Guinea to qualify for the last four of the tournament after conceding a whopping 12 goals in just two matches.
Since the inception of the tournament in 1998, Nigeria are the only team that have never failed to go beyond the group stage. As the defending champions seek to protect that laudable record, Mali, Zambia and Algeria are also looking to reach the semi-finals for the first time.
Cameroon vs Ghana
The last time both sides met – in the semi-final of the 2016 Women’s AFCON – Raissa Feudjio scored the only goal that ensured victory for the Indomitable Lionesses of Cameroon. However, Ghana still lead the head-to-head record between both teams in the biennial tournament at five wins to Cameroon’s three.
If only Ghana had beaten Mali in their previous game as expected by many, today’s game would have just answered the simple question of who tops Group A. Instead the hosts put more pressure on themselves by succumbing to a defeat on Tuesday, and now they cannot risk losing for the second time in a row.
From their first two games, it is evident that converting chances seems to be a problem for the Black Queens who have amassed 47 shots (14 of them on target) but only have two goals to show – one being a penalty.
Speaking at the pre-match press conference on Thursday, Cameroon midfielder, Feudjio said: “We all know what it entails playing against a host nation at any tournament. The fans will be cheering every move they make and that can sometimes put pressure on the opponent. However, we are not going to be affected by that.
“We are focused as a team and we respect Ghana very much, but we are going to approach the game with a winning mentality to claim the three points at stake. We are not even thinking of the mathematics of what will happen if we lose or draw. All we know is that we have a game against Ghana that we have to win and qualify to the semi-finals.”
Algeria vs Mali
The last (and only) time Algeria and Mali met in the Women’s AFCON was in 2004. The match ended 3-0 in favour of the Lady Fennecs from North Africa.
But after playing two matches each in the ongoing edition in Ghana, Les Aigles are looking better poised for victory when both sides meet again today after 14 years.
Having lost their star player, Naima Bouhani to injury prior to the start of the tournament, Algeria have hardly posed a threat to their opponents and are yet to score a goal.
Mali on the other hand have shown strong intent by scoring first against two of the continent’s women’s football heavyweights. But while Cameroon came from a goal down to eventually win, the Malian defense proved too strong for Ghana as Les Aigles went on to snatch an important victory from their second group game.
Group A permutations – Cameroon are guaranteed progress if they get at least a draw against hosts Ghana, who are in desperate need of a win.
Ghana will go through (alongside Cameroon) with a win if Mali fail to win against Algeria. In this case, a tie breaker (of which head-to-head will be taken into consideration first) will decide the group leaders between the Indomitable Lionesses and the Black Queens because they will both be on six points.
However, if both Ghana and Mali win their matches, then they will join Cameroon on six points and a tie breaker will determine the final classification.
Algeria will need to beat Mali with an emphatic scoreline and hope that Cameroon have a field day against Ghana. That is the only realistic chance they have at making history, because they will now join Ghana and Mali on three points and goal difference would most likely be the judge of who goes home.
If the two matches end in a draw, Cameroon will progress on seven points, and will be joined by either Ghana or Mali who will both be on four points.
But just to be straight forward, a victory for Cameroon and Mali will see both teams qualify for the semi-finals with nine and six points respectively.
Equatorial Guinea vs Nigeria
These are the only champions the Women’s AFCON has ever had. Nigeria have won the tournament eight times while Equatorial have had the pleasure of lifting the trophy twice.
Their match on Saturday is meant to give spectators a show befitting of a final. But that will most likely not be the case no thanks to Equatorial Guinea’s unpreparedness.
The Super Falcons of Nigeria recovered from a shock loss at the hands of South Africa to pounce on Zambia in their following game. It does not look like the Nzalang Nacional can survive what is coming their way.
South Africa vs Zambia
Lots of credit have been given COSAFA after these two teams from Southern Africa opened their campaign in memorable fashion. Now they get to face each other in what is expected to be an exciting encounter.
This would be the first time both sides are meeting in the Women’s AFCON. However last year they met in the semi-final of the COSAFA Women’s Championship.
The intriguing match saw South Africa come from behind twice to draw 3-3 in regular time. Banyana Banyana would go on to beat the Shepolopolo 5-3 on penalties.
Group B permutations – As things stand, South Africa just need a point against Zambia to cement their place at the top of Group B. They, however, need to avoid a defeat so as not to put their progress to the next round in jeopardy even though they have a healthy goal difference that could weather the storm.
This is because if the pendulum of victory swings the way of Zambia while the other Group B match ends with Nigeria beating Equatorial Guinea, there will be three teams on six points and sadly one of them will not progress. But a win for Zambia will just be enough for the Shepolopolo to progress alongside South Africa if Nigeria fail to win – a tie breaker will be used to decide who tops the group.
A tie breaker will not have to play any role at all if South Africa and Nigeria both win their matches. Their places in the last four will be assured with nine and six points respectively.
A victory for South Africa and Equatorial Guinea would mean three teams (Nigeria, Zambia and Equatorial Guinea) with three points a piece will then slug it out for who qualifies behind Banyana Banyana. In this case, Equatorial Guinea will need a miracle to progress.
Meanwhile if the two matches end in a draw, South Africa will progress on 7 points, and will be joined by either Zambia or Nigeria who will both be on 4 points.
Tiebreakers – Article 71 of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations regulations states the following:
71.1 In case of equality between two teams at the end of the group matches, the teams will be ranked according to the following criteria in the order listed below:
71.1.1 The greatest number of points obtained in the match between the two teams concerned;
71.1.2 The goal difference in all group matches;
71.1.3 The greatest number of goals scored in all group matches
71.1.4 A drawing of lots conducted by the Organising Committee
71.2 In case of equality between more than two teams at the end of the group matches, the teams will be ranked according to the following criteria in the order listed below:
71.2.1 The greatest number of points obtained in the matches between the teams concerned;
71.2.2 The best goal difference in the matches between the teams concerned;
71.2.3 The greatest number of goals scored in the matches between the teams concerned;
71.2.4 If after applying criteria 72.2.1 to 72.2.3, two teams are still tied, 72.2.1 to 72.2.3 criteria are again applied to matches played between the two teams in question to determine the final ranking of the two teams. If this procedure does not allow classifying them, the criteria listed from 72.2.5 to 72.2.7 are applied in the indicated order;
72.2.5 The goal difference in all group matches;
72.2.6 The greatest number of goals scored in all group matches;
72.2.7 A drawing of lots conducted by the Organising Committee
Source: Chibuogwu Nnadiegbulam