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Friday, August 12, 2022

WAFCON 2022: Group B preview – Cameroon, Zambia, Tunisia & Togo

Nigeria won the last edition of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in 2018, beating South Africa in the final on penalties

The 12th Women’s Africa Cup of Nations kicks off in Morocco on 2 July.

Africa’s four qualifiers for next year’s Women’s World Cup will be decided at the tournament, which culminates with the final on Saturday, 23 July.

Here, BBC Sport Africa runs the rule over Group B, which include Cameroon, Zambia, Tunisia and debutants Togo.


Sunday, 3 July: Cameroon v Zambia, Tunisia v Togo (Casablanca)

Wednesday, 6 July: Zambia v Tunisia, Togo v Cameroon (Casablanca)

Saturday, 9 July: Cameroon v Tunisia (Casablanca), Zambia v Togo (Rabat)


Cameroon's forward Ajara Nchout (L) celebrates with Gabrielle Onguene after scoring her second goal during the France 2019 Women's World Cup Group E football match between Cameroon and New Zealand in 2019
Forwards Ajara Nchout and Gabrielle Onguene, named best player at the 2016 WAFCON, are set to be key again
Appearance: 12th Best finish: Runners-up (2004, 2014 & 2016)
Coach: Gabriel Zabo Captain: Gabrielle Onguene
Fifa ranking: 54 Nickname: Indomitable Lionesses

Alongside Nigeria and South Africa, Cameroon are the only team to have competed at every Women’s Nations Cup (WAFCON), and the Indomitable Lionesses – the second-highest ranked team in Africa – will be keen to improve on their third-placed finish four years ago.

Coach since last year, Gabriel Zabo has a good blend of domestic and foreign-based professionals, with the standout talents Inter Milan striker Ajara Njoya Nchout, 29, Gotham FC defender Estelle Johnson, Fleury 91’s Falone Meffometou and CSKA Moscow star, and Cameroon captain, Gabrielle Onguene.

The three-time runners-up are once again among the favourites and will be keen for a third straight Women’s World Cup appearance after reaching the second round at the past two tournaments.

However, 19 of the squad will be making their WAFCON debut, including Johnson, two players based in Nigeria’s top league and six in Cameroon itself.

Beyond breaking their title jinx in Morocco, Cameroon will have a shot at revenge when they meet Zambia, who halted their Tokyo 2020 dream, in a clash likely to determine the group winner.

Qualification was secured when subduing Central African Republic (3-0 agg) prior to sweeping past The Gambia (10-1 agg).


Zambia's forward Barbra Banda (C) celebrates her goal with teammates during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games women's group F first round football match between China and Zambia in July 24, 2021.
Zambia will rely on captain Barbra Banda (centre) for inspiration
Appearance: 3rd Best finish: Group stage (2014 & 2018)
Coach: Bruce Mwape Captain: Barbra Banda
Fifa ranking: 103 Nickname: Copper Queens

Aided by their pacy and powerful attacking line, Zambia – who have qualified for their third finals in the last four attempts – are an emerging giant-killer in African women’s football.

In the last four years the Copper Queens have claimed significant victories over African heavyweights, stunning Cameroon in qualifying to earn their maiden Olympic ticket in 2020 and upsetting seven-time winners South Africa to take bronze at last year’s COSAFA Women’s Cup.

Zambia have won just one of six games at the WAFCON finals but under Bruce Mwape, who was appointed 2018, the side have impressed with their attacking football as well as showcased some future stars at the Olympics.

These include Barbra Banda, the first women’s footballer to score two hat-tricks at one Olympics and a former top scorer in the Chinese Women’s Super League, the top scorer in African 2020 Olympic qualifying in Grace Chanda as well as Turkey-based duo Misozi Zulu and goalkeeper Hazel Nali.

The Zambians squeezed past Southern African neighbours Malawi (4-3 agg) and Namibia (on away goals after 1-1 draw on agg) to qualify and will be hoping to be third time lucky when it comes to breaking their group stage jinx, as the carrot of a maiden World Cup ticket follows their first Olympic experience.


Tunisia women's forward Mariem Houij
Mariem Houij (centre) scored six goals for Tunisia in qualifying
Appearance: 2nd Best finish: Group stage (2008)
Coach: Samir Landolsi Captain: Chaima Abbassi
Fifa ranking: 72 Nickname: The Carthage Eagles

Returning to the tournament after a solitary previous appearance in 2008 offers a massive leap forward for women’s football in Tunisia, with their side the fourth best-ranked in Morocco given the failure of higher-placed Ghana and Ivory Coast to qualify.

The North Africans’ debut was promising enough, with a draw against tournament giants Nigeria coupled with narrow defeats by Ghana and South Africa, two more of the continent’s strongest sides down the years.

The WAFCON dream has largely come true following last year’s return of Samir Landolsi, who led Tunisia to its maiden finals 14 years ago and is now on his fourth stint as head coach.

The Carthage Eagles will hope to ride as far as possible, with lively ALG Spor forward Mariem Houij, who netted six qualifying goals, France-based striker Ella Kaabachi and Excelsior forward Sabrine Louzi expected to be key players.

They overcame neighbours Egypt (7-2 agg) before thrashing none other than two-time WAFCON winners Equatorial Guinea (7-3 agg) to realise their qualification.


Togo women before an international match
Togo’s largely home-based squad have built strong cohesion
Appearance: Debutants Best finish: n/a
Head of technical panel: Kai Tomety Captain: Nathalie Badate
Fifa ranking: 118 Nickname: Ladies Sparrowhawks

One of the four WAFCON debutants, Togo had been absent from international football for so long – spending 11 years out before returning to contest a regional tournament in 2018 – that it was only this year that the West Africans received a Fifa ranking.

The Ladies Sparrowhawks are led by former international Kai Tomety, one of three female head coaches at this year’s finals who, despite taking charge in 2018, has overseen the transition of the team for more than a decade.

The Togolese set-up can disrupt any side as it is dominated by home-based players that have largely featured together and thus built a strong cohesion over the years.

Key to their success will be players from league champions Amis du Monde and some European-based players in striker Afi Woedikou, whose Yzeure side reached this year’s Coupe de France final, Turkey-based midfielder Takyatou Yaya and AJ Auxerre’s Talya Gace.

To earn their maiden appearance, the Togolese secured a walkover against Sao Tome and Principe, who pulled out after losing the first leg 5-0 at home, before securing a second-round double over Gabon, with two 2-1 wins.

Source: BBC

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