AFRICAN WOMEN CHAMPIONSHIP: NAMIBIA 2014 PREVIEW

Equatorial Guinea lifted the trophy in 2012.
Equatorial Guinea lifted the trophy in 2012.

I love female football no doubt, especially when it is being played at the highest level. I am a big fan of the Super Falcons and the fact that they have won six (6) of the last eight (8) editions on the African continent makes it even more exciting.

Here is a quick preview of the 9th edition of the African Women Championship. The 2014 African Women’s Championship is scheduled to be held in Namibia between the 11th and 25th October and it also serves as a qualification tournament for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, with the top three qualifying for the finals in Canada. The tournament matches will be held in two stadiums in Windhoek with different capacities, Independence stadium (25,000) and Sam Nujoma stadium (10,300).

large_l_NamibiaThe host nation, Namibia is making her first appearance in the African championship and also for the first time the defending champions, Equatorial Guinea, are not taking part after failing to win their last qualifying round match. Namibia were awarded the hosting rights in October 2011. Preparation has been slow and there’s been a lot of criticism, another interesting fact is that the national women’s league will be suspended this year because all money is used for hosting the continental event – It will be nice if they qualify for the World Cup proper though. Meanwhile, Minister of Sport Jerry Ekandjo called on Namibians to support the championships, adding that it would transform Namibia.

Participating eight teams are Namibia, Zambia, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Cameroon, Algeria and Ghana. Favourites to win this tournament will definitely be the Super Falcons of Nigeria. South Africa and Cameroon.

large_l_Nigeria teamIn Group A, Namibia, Zambia, Nigeria and Ivory Coast will trade tackles. The Super Falcons are currently camped in Abuja, Nigeria and will begin her campaign against Ivory Coast this weekend, the southern part of the continent has been a good hunting ground for the Falcons winning on three occassions in 2000, 2004 and 2010. Here’s another big chance and the Edwin Okon led team that comprises of six foreign based professionals including veteran striker Perpetua Nkwocha and FIFA U20 Women’s world cup MVP, Asisat Oshoala are all determined to regaining the trophy they lost two years ago and also pick up a World cup ticket.

Host Nation, Namibia who are fondly called the Brave Gladiators are featuring in the tournament for the first time and their coach, Jaqueline Shipanga announced her final squad for the Championship last week with no surprises in the 21-member squad, with the regulars such as captain and defender Uerikondjera Kasaona, playmaker Zenatha Coleman and midfielder Thomalina Adams making the final cut. She’s praised the commitment of the senior players and she’s hopeful that the team will progress beyond the first round.

defaultFor Cote d’iviore, they surprisingly edged out defending champions Equitorial Guinea in the final round of the qualifiers and preparations have been going on smoothly since they opened camp in South Africa some weeks ago. This will be the Ivorians second appearance in the tournament and they are battle ready to go past the group stages this time around.

Zambia-women-team-300Finally in group A is another debutant, Zambia. The She-polopolo move into residential camping on 1 September 2014 and have been involved in some friendly games to wrap up their preparations. They will be hoping for a good start against the Host nation on Saturday.

HalftimeNG prediction: The Super Falcons will qualify alongside another team but i’m tipping Namibia to qualify alongside the six-time winners.

Group B looks more tighter as three big teams are involved, South Africa – beaten finalists in the last tournament, Cameroon – who are making a record 10th appearance and finished third at the last tournament, Ghana – who have been beaten finalists thrice in the competition and Algeria – who are making their 4th appearance and are seeking to go past the group stages for the first time.

248ee2f7-7d82-4e11-8811-99083870cac5Algeria are the first team to arrive in Namibia for the TN Mobile 9th African Women Championship Namibia 2014 on 28 September 2014 with a 38-member delegation including 21 players, who will do battle for the Algerians.

Coach Azzedine Chih had explained that the reason behind their early arrival is to acclimatize and continue with preparations for the tournament.

GHANA Queens2Another team that arrived early was the Black Queens of Ghana. The determined team have been in camp since 29 July 2014 preparing for the final tournament. Ghana team coach Yussif Basigi says his side aim is to win the Championship and book their place in next year’s FIFA World Cup after naming a strong 21-man squad for the tournament.

large_l_BanyanaFor South Africa, The Banyana Banyana have probably been the busiest team in terms of preparations. The South Africans, have played series of test games as coach Vera Pauw fine-tunes her side for the tournament. They have played eight international friendly matches, winning seven and playing to a goalless draw against Zimbabwe. Star player Portia Modise who is now a veteran interestingly will be playing in this tournament, she recently scored a hat-trick in one of the test games. Goalkeeper, Roxanne Barker is the only overseas based player included in the squad. Vera Pauw believes her current group of Banyana Banyana players can go all the way to the quarterfinals of the Women’s World Cup in Canada next year – She’s already looking beyond the AWC in Namibia.

Lionesses-En-route-to-NamibiaFinally in group B, we have the Indomitable Lionesses of Cameroon, currently ranked third in Africa and 51 in the world. They have competed in nine of the ten finals of the Africa Women’s Championships to date, reaching the knockout stages on eight occasions. Cameroon’s women’s football team has an impressive record on the African continent and the international arena. They were runners-up twice, finished third twice and fourth on four occasions. Besides that, they won the gold medal at the 2011 All Africa Games while they also qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Cameroon reached this year’s Africa Women’s Championship finals after beating Senegal 2-1 on aggregate. Some of their most influential players are striker Madeleine Ngono, who has scored 26 goals in 42 appearances for Cameroon, midfielder Francoise Bella who has 53 caps and defender Christine Manie who has 40 caps.

HalftimeNG Prediction: Tough group no doubt, tipping South Africa and Cameroon to progress.

==> The winner, runner-up and third-place team will represent Africa at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada next year.

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