Thursday 12 April 2018, 08:16

Ethiopia excel in first round of African qualifying

  • First round of African qualifiers for 2018 Women's Cup of Nations and France 2019

  • Continental championships to be held in Ghana in November

  • Top three advance to next year’s world finals

The road from Africa to the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ is long and arduous and ends at the Africa Women's Cup of Nations in Ghana later this year, where the top three teams will advance to next year’s world finals.

Qualifying is under way for the continental championships, with 22 teams attempting to battle their way through the qualifying competition, which comprises two rounds of two-legged knockout matches. rounds up the action from the first qualifying round, played on 4 and 10 April. The second round will be played in June, when Nigeria, Cameroon and South Africa make their entrance.

First round results (winning teams in bold)

Kenya (1-0, 0-0) Uganda Tanzania (3-3, 1-1) Zambia (Zambia win on away goals) Libya (0-8, 0-7) Ethiopia Congo (2-0, 1-1) Central African Republic Senegal (2-1, 0-2) Algeria Namibia (0-2, 0-2) Zimbabwe Lesotho (1-0, 2-1) Swaziland Morocco (1-1, 0-0) Côte d’Ivoire (Côte d’Ivoire win on away goals) Sierra Leone w/o Mali (Sierra Leone withdrew) Burkina Faso (2-1, 1-2) Gambia (Gambia win 5-3 on penalties)

Seven things we learned:

1 Beaten 2-1 by Senegal in the first leg, Algeria turned the tie around in the second, taking the lead through a 23rd-minute Fatima Sekouane penalty and then surviving late Senegalese pressure to seal a place in the next round thanks to Benaichouche Rahma’s strike three minutes into stoppage time.

2 Côte d’Ivoire, who made their Women’s World Cup debut at Canada 2015, were below their best as they edged past Morocco on the away goals rule. Fatou Coulibaly scored from the spot to give the Elephants the lead in the away leg, with the Moroccans equalising late on through Chislane Chebbak. The Ivorians then held firm in defence in the return, securing a goalless draw and with it a place in the second round.

3 Ethiopia had a far easier time of it against Libya. The first leg, held in Cairo, saw Loza Abera score a hat-trick and Rehima Zerega a brace as the Ethiopians cruised to an 8-0 victory. The Walyas were almost as impressive in the return in Addis Ababa, scoring seven times without reply, as Zerega helped herself to another brace and Hwot Dengiso hit four.

4 Congo eased into the next round with a 3-1 aggregate victory over Central African Republic. After recording a 2-0 home win thanks to goals from Estelle Kokolo and Adolphine Dembele Aminata, the Congolese completed the job with a 1-1 draw in Bangui. Lesotho and Zimbabwe joined them in the next round after respectively disposing of Swaziland and Namibia, while Kenya made the most of Lilian Adera’s solitary goal in the first leg to see off Uganda.

5 One of the most exciting matches of the round came when Zambia grabbed a 3-3 draw away to Tanzania. Barbara Banda was on target twice for the visitors and Misozi Zulu once, while Asha Rashid scored a brace of her own for the Twiga Stars, for whom Stumai Abdallah also scored. The away goals rule put paid to the Tanzanians’ hopes, however, as a 1-1 draw in the return sent the Shepolopolo through.

6 There was drama all the way as Gambia squeezed past Burkina Faso. Defeated 2-1 in the first leg in Ouagadougou, the Gambians won by the same scoreline in the second, thanks to an Adama Tamba strike and a Ramata Kounda own goal, with Salimata Simpore on target for the visitors. In the resulting penalty shootout, Gambia held their nerve to win 5-3.

7 Mali made it through to the second round without even playing, as opponents Sierra Leone withdrew from the competition.

Second-round ties (4 and 9 June 2018)

Congo-Cameroon Gambia-Nigeria Côte d’Ivoire-Mali Algeria-Ethiopia Lesotho-South Africa Zambia-Zimbabwe Kenya-Equatorial Guinea*

*Currently suspended by FIFA, Equatorial Guinea are taking part in the qualifiers for the 2018 Africa Women's Cup of Nations, but cannot qualify for France 2019.