Wednesday 27 October 2021, 15:05

Nigeria edge Ghana as trio produce upsets

  • African qualifying got underway for the FIFA Women's World Cup

  • The sides are vying for four tickets to Australia & New Zealand 2023

  • Ghana were knocked out by 11-time African champions Nigeria

Africa’s qualifiers for the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ got underway earlier this month with 44 hopefuls at the starting gate. When the dust settled eight days later, only 23 were still in contention. The first-round winners progress to the next phase in early 2022, with the 11 winners of that round joining hosts Morocco at the CAF Women Africa Cup of Nations 2022, the tournament that doubles as the final qualifying round for Australia & New Zealand 2023. Although the second leg of Algeria-Sudan has been postponed, the North African side, 14-0 winners in the first leg, will join the 21 teams already through, barring a miracle. With the exception of Ghana, the top ten-ranked African teams on the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women's World Ranking all survived the opening round. In their defence, the Black Maidens had the misfortune to be paired with heavyweights Nigeria. Indeed, the Super Falcons have been the continent’s highest-positioned team for the 18 years the FIFA Women’s Ranking has been in existence.

🌍 Aggregate results

Uganda 2-2 Ethiopia (2-1 on penalties) Kenya 15-1 South Sudan Eritrea 0-6 Burundi Djibouti-Rwanda (Djibouti withdrew) Malawi 3-4 Zambia Tanzania 3-5 Namibia Zimbabwe 6-1 Eswatini Angola 1-7 Botswana Mozambique 0-13 South Africa Egypt 2-7 Tunisia Guinea-Bissau-Mauritania Burkina Faso 5-2 Benin Nigeria 2-1 Ghana Niger 0-20 Côte d'Ivoire

📅 Qualification dates

Second round Eleven home-and-away fixtures to be played on dates to be confirmed. Africa Women Cup of Nations Hosts Morocco will be joined by the 11 second-round winners between 2-23 July 2022 The top four finishers in Morocco qualify directly for Australia & New Zealand 2023, while two additional teams will progress to the intercontinental play-offs.

☝ Free-scorers and surprise packages

Nigeria prevail in clash of titans As the standout tie of the first round, the eagerly awaited Ghana-Nigeria showdown would eventually go the way of the Super Falcons courtesy of two unanswered first-leg goals from Unchenna Kanu. The Black Maidens salvaged some pride with a 1-0 victory in the return fixture with a goal from Princella Adubea, but it was not enough to prevent Nigeria from progressing. Algeria and Côte d’Ivoire show no mercy Although Algeria have yet to play their return match with Sudan and are 14-0 up from the first game, the biggest winning margin over two legs in the opening round was Côte d’Ivoire’s 20-0 defeat of Niger. With four goals each, Ida Guehai and Rosemonde Kouassi were the catalysts for this goalscoring bonanza. That said, Algeria’s Naima Bouhenni could surpass both of them, as she also has four goals to her name… from just the first leg! Trio spring surprise The three biggest surprises of the first round were the successes of Uganda, Gabon and Botswana. The former defeated Ethiopia – 42 places above them on the FIFA Women's Ranking before they met – on penalties, while Gabon went through on away goals at the expense of Congo, a team 24 places above them. Also unperturbed by higher-ranked opponents were Botswana, who ran out 7-1 aggregate winners over an Angola side 26 places above them.

🔢 The stat

133 - The number of goals scored across 38 games, an average of 3.5 per game. Suffice to say that there was no shortage of goal-mouth action across Africa, with just one fixture ending in a draw. The match in question was the return leg of Sierra Leone-Gambia (1-1), which was enough for the latter to go through 3-1 on aggregate. Djibouti and Equatorial Guinea progressed to the next round without playing after the respective forfeits of Rwanda and Congo DR.

👂 The quote...

"I’m back in the team and ready to show the youngsters in the squad that it’s possible to qualify for the Cup of Nations. We managed to do it before, so this is another chance to prove that our maiden participation was no fluke." Neddy Atieno, Kenya forward and current top scorer in these qualifiers with six goals