Nigeria goes neck-and-neck with Ghana in the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers on Wednesday as the race for a ticket to Morocco 2022 begins.
Aside from the bragging rights at stake, the West African nations will rekindle their long rivalry in African women’s football and also set up a battle for a spot in the next round of the qualifying series for the continent’s showpiece.
Ghana and Nigeria have met in 17 previous matches, with the Super Falcons claiming nine wins – compared to three for the Black Queens – and outscored their opponents 26 goals to 10 in the process.
The Super Falcons are hoping to qualify for a 12th tournament, nevertheless, they need to negotiate their way past the Black Queens over two legs to advance to the next stage.
Coach Randy Waldrum has the luxury of prosecuting the doubleheader with his full-strength squad, with the likes of Barcelona’s Asisat Oshoala, Minsk’s Onome Ebi, Sevilla’s Toni Payne and Dijon’s Desire Oparanozie are available for the high-profile showdown between the West African giants.
Waldrum’s ladies have struggled in their last five international outings – losing three of them and leaking 10 goals in the process, including a recent 4-2 humiliating loss to South Africa at the Aisha Buhari Cup.
Regardless, the African champions aim to redeem their image at the Mobolaji Johnson Stadium and assistant captain Francisca Ordega insists they will leave nothing to chance against their West African foes.
“I feel that we are ready judging by the mood of the players in camp and we can’t wait to go out on the pitch,” Ordega, who joined the Super Falcons’ fold from her base in Russia on Monday, told CAFOnline.com.
“Our journey to the 2023 Women’s World Cup starts now and we need to win to make it to the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations. If we don’t win, it automatically means that we are not just only going to miss the Women’s AFCON next year but also the World Cup.
“We lost to South Africa (at the Aisha Buhari Cup) but everyone on the team understands what is at stake now, why it is important we redeem our image and also do everything possible to qualify and defend our African title.
“Even though Ghana don’t have some of their best players according to them, we are still not going to underrate them. They are a very good team and tactically sound and one of the best in Africa for a long time. It is going to be a tough and competitive match but we are going to do our best to beat them.”
For Ghana, they will be missing the services of Maccabi Kiryat Gat’s Sherifatu Sumaila, NJ/NY Gotham FC’s Jennifer Cudjoe and Durgardens’ Elizabeth Addo but Real Betis’ Grace Asantewaa, Durgardens’ Portia Boakye and Racing’s Princella Adubea could line up against Nigeria.
Coach Mercy Tagoe’s squad is majorly made up of players plying their trades in the Ghanaian topflight that featured at the 2021 Aisha Buhari Cup, except for four foreign-based stars in the 22-player list.
Despite the pedigree and depth of quality in the Nigeria camp, Ghana’s assistant captain Fafali Dumehasi is undeterred, stating her team aim to cause a second upset on Nigerian soil since 2002.
“We’ve trained enough for the first leg match against Nigeria in Lagos,” the Police Machine goalkeeper told CAFOnline.com.
“Our dream is to qualify to the next stage of the qualifying series, then the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations and later the Women’s World Cup in 2023.
“To achieve this, we are in Nigeria to play our hearts out so that we can bring victory back home.”
This is the 18th time both countries will be squaring up in a competitive tie and the first time in Women’s AFCON qualification campaigns.
They first competitively met on February 16, 1991, in the African Women’s Championship, which also served as the qualifying tournament for the inaugural FIFA Women’s World Cup staged at the National Stadium, Lagos, when the Super Falcons won 5-1.