Nigeria’s Super Falcons will have to work hard to defend their Africa Women Cup of Nations (AWCON) title, as the hosts Ghana, South Africa and Kenya are blowing hot and determined to outsmart the record winners.
South Africa, who have been runners-up in the continental showpiece on four previous occasions have been pooled against the Super Falcons alongside Kenya and Zambia in Group B for the tournament slated to hold in Ghana from November 17 to December 1.
Ghana and Nigeria were seeded for the draw, meaning they could end up meeting in the semi-finals and Black Queens’ coach, Bashir Hayford said his side will be ready for Nigerian girls.
Hayford admitted he wants to make history by clinching the continental title on home soil, as he prepares to ruffle many feathers at the contest from November 17 to December 1.
“We believe we have prepared adequately for the competition and that we can face anybody even Nigeria. It’s better to get a strong test earlier than later.
“Our objective is to win the title here and make history. Ghana have never won this, while Nigeria are hoping for an eleventh title. We have to hold the trophy down here.”
Reacting to last Sunday’s draw, South Africa coach, Des Ellis says she is pleased to be meeting Nigeria in the group stage of the competition, as her side seeks a first-ever qualification for the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
“There was never going to be an easy group – all eight teams that have qualified are top quality and we all know that to be the best, you have to beat the best,” Ellis said in a media release from the South African Football Association.
“We have been anxiously waiting for this draw to take place so that we take our preparations to the next level now that we know who we will face in the tournament.”
“Nigeria has won this tournament a record 10 times and they are the defending champions, so they will definitely be sensing victory against us. But we are glad to be meeting them now and not later in the tournament because our last encounter ended in tears for us. We lost 1-0 in the semifinal of this competition in 2016, and that denied us a chance to be at the World Cup.”
Despite facing a mountainous task when the competition kicks-off on November 17 to December 1, Harambee Starlets coach, David Ouma remains upbeat that Kenya, who will face Zambia in their opener, will better their last performance.
Kenya took part in the last edition held in Cameroon, where they, crashed out in preliminary stages. Nigeria, in particular, handed Kenya a 4-0 defeat, having lost the opener 3-1 to Ghana and another identical scoreline defeat by Mali.
However, coach Ouma is eying at least a point from the Super Falcon when they clash in the final Group match of this year’s competition.
“I’m not focusing on Nigeria alone because if you look at the tournament, we have like the top six African countries there, so basically every team is a worthy opponent. But I believe that with extensive preparation and a proper mindset, we can pick at least a point from each team,” said a courageous Ouma.