South Africa moved a step closer to a dream first World Cup qualification berth after advancing to the semifinals of the ongoing 2018 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana.
Banyana Banyana settled for a 1-1 draw with Cosafa rivals Zambia in their final Group B fixture in Accra Saturday – a result which ensured them top spot with 7 points.
In-form Thembi Kgatlana missed a glorious chance to put South Africa ahead in the early moments but made amends with an emphatic strike from inside the box in the 7th minute.
But the Copper Queens had other ideas as they bounced back with the equalizer within almost three minutes. Midfielder Mary Mwakapila, after receiving a misdirected header, slipped a pass through to arrow head Rachel Kundananji who calmly hit low past South Africa keeper Kaylin Swart.
In the second half, Zambia, needing victory with hope that the other final group fixture between Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria went in their favour, threw more bodies forward in search for the lead and match winner but Banyana were resolute.
On 66 minutes, the tournament’s top scorer Kgatalana was set through down the right but ended up missing the easiest of chances – after doing all the hard work to get past the Zambia defence and rounding the keeper, the winger failed to put the icing on the cake by rolling her strike across the face of goal.
The sequence of missed chances at both ends characterized the remaining minutes till the blast of the final whistle, meaning South Africa negotiated the group stage unbeaten with a top of Group B finish.
South Africa advance to the last four along with Nigeria’s Super Falcons who hammered hapless Equatorial Guinea 6-0 at Cape Coast.
Banyana Banyana will now revert to Cape Coast where they face Group A runners-up Mali in the second semi-final match on Tuesday, November 27. A win seals an automatic and first ever Women’s World Cup ticket for the Rainbow nation.
2016 Women’s Afcon finalists Cameroon and Nigeria will square off in the first semis game at the Accra Sports Stadium.
Losers of the semifinals still have a chance to battle for a ticket to France 2019 in the third-place playoff.
The 2018 Women’s Afcon grand finale is scheduled for December 1 in Accra.