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Paris 2024: Four African Teams Battle for Final Football Tickets at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament

Paris 2024: Four African Teams Battle for Final Football Tickets at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament

Paris 2024: Four African Teams Battle for Final Football Tickets at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament - Afrocritik

In the ultimate round of qualification, Nigeria will face off against South Africa, and Zambia is up against Morocco. 

By Tuka Letura 

Four teams represented Africa at the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia, and there were also four final teams at the last Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in 2022. Four of these teams have now found their way to the final round of qualifiers for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games; Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, and Morocco will slug it out for a chance at another summer international competition.

In the ultimate round of qualification, Nigeria will face off against South Africa, and Zambia is up against Morocco. 

Nigeria vs South Africa

Nigeria will host South Africa in Abuja for the first leg of the qualifiers on Friday, April 5, 2024, as they look to extend their Olympic appearances to four, and make a first appearance in football at the perennial tournament for the first time since 2008.

Being the women’s sides with the most appearances in football at the Olympics amongst African nations, Nigeria will be looking to extend those numbers as they clash in a two-legged fixture vying for a place at the perennial event.

In 2012, Nigeria fell short in the final round of qualifiers for the London Olympics after losing at penalties to Cameroon. The first leg in Nigeria had ended 2-1 in favour of the home side, with Cameroon mirroring the result at their ground in normal time in the return leg. With no one finding the breakthrough, a 3-3 aggregate scoreline meant the game went to penalties. 

After both teams failed to convert their third penalties, Cameroon managed to score their next two shots, while Nigeria’s hopes were dashed when Faith Ikidi missed Nigeria’s final attempt. This crucial miss meant the Indomitable Lionesses had secured their place in the Olympics in London, and for Nigeria, it meant their first absence from the Olympics in football.

It was an almost identical situation in 2015 in the qualifiers for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. Nigeria started proceedings in the third round of qualification after Mali withdrew in the second round. The team tied the initial leg of the qualifier with a goal apiece against Equatorial Guinea in Abuja, but endured a 2-1 loss in the follow-up leg despite holding a 1-0 lead in the first half at the Estadio de Bata stadium in Equiatorial Guinea. With 3-2 the final score on aggregates, Nigeria marked their second consecutive failure to qualify for the Olympic Games.

Another third round exit awaited the Super Falcons of Nigeria in 2020 for the Olympics in Japan. Proceedings ended with a goalless draw at the Parc des Sports in Abidjan. The rerun leg in Nigeria at the Agege Stadium in Lagos finished 1-1 and so was it on aggregate. Ivory Coast proceeded on away goals and Nigeria hit the kerb.

Nigeria will be missing the services of two centre backs; Ashleigh Plumptre and Oluwatosin Demehin are out due to injuries, with Plumptre opting out just a few days to camp. Nicole Payne and Chidinma Okeke were recalled to the side, while Jumoke Alani was called up as a direct replacement for Plumptre. Rofiat Imuran is also another defender who is unavailable for selection to Super Falcons Coach Randy Waldrum. It’ll be  a huge hurdle for the American regarding how  he sets up his defence going into these games.

Paris 2024: Four African Teams Battle for Final Football Tickets at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament - Afrocritik
Nigeria possible line up

Chiamaka Nnadozie is certain to start in goal and would be looking to continue her fine form for club and country. Current African player of the year, Asisat Oshoala, with Rasheedat Ajibade and Uchenna Kanu, will likely be the preferred front three as Nigeria seeks another international competitive appearance a year after the 2023 Women’s World Cup. 

Randy Waldrum invited 21 players to Camp for this round, here’s a full list;

Goalkeepers: Chiamaka Nnadozie, Tochukwu Oluehi, Linda Jiwuaku. 

Defenders: Osinachi Ohale, Jumoke Alani, Shukurat Oladipo, Michelle Alozie, Nicole Payne, Chidinma Okeke. 

Midfielders: Deborah Abiodun, Halimatu Ayinde, Christy Ucheibe, Jennifer Chechegini, Rasheedat Ajibade, Toni Payne.

Attackers: Omorinsola Babajide, Esther Okoronkwo, Ifeoma Onumonu, Asisat Oshoala, Uchenna Kanu, Gift Monday, Chiwendu Ihezuo.

 

South Africa hit consecutive qualifications for the Olympics in 2012 and 2016, making them not just the second side to make more than one appearance at the Olympics amongst African Women’s sides, but also the second side to do so on consecutive occasions after Nigeria.

At the qualifiers for the last Olympics, Bayana Bayana faced a heartbreaking setback in their quest for Olympic qualification for the third time in a row. They were unable to find the back of the net in either game against Botswana in the second round, with both resulting in goalless draws. With the aggregate score level after extra time in the second leg in Johannesburg, the match went to penalties. 

Botswana held their nerve, converting three out of five spot-kicks. However, South Africa faltered, missing two of their first four attempts. The final blow came when Refiloe Jane’s penalty miss in their final kick sealed their fate and eliminated them from qualification.

Going into this round of games, South Africa will be without goalkeeper, Andile Dlamini, who is out due to medical reasons. Desiree Ellis, the national team coach, will keep faith in Kaylin Swart, who started and kept clean sheets in both legs of the third round against Tanzania.

The San Diego Wave forward, Thembi Kgatlana, will most likely lead the lines for the South Africans. Already the top scorer in the qualifiers with five goals, she will be looking to add to her tally and send her country to the Olympics. 

Coach Ellis keeps her sides very malleable to match the opposition, and this is certainly a test she can meet up to. 

Paris 2024: Four African Teams Battle for Final Football Tickets at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament - Afrocritik
South Africa possible lineup

In both their recent matchups, South Africa emerged victorious against Nigeria. They secured a 4-2 win in the Aisha Buhari Cup in 2021 and followed it up with a 2-1 triumph during the group stages of the 2022 Women Africa Cup of Nations, ultimately clinching their inaugural continental title. 

Here’s a list of Ellis’ 24-player squad

Goalkeepers: Kaylin Swart, Katlego Moletsane, Regirl Ngobeni.

Defenders: Karabo Dhlamini, Fikile Magama, Tiisetso Makhubela, Lonthemba Mhlongo, Bamabanani Mbane, Noko Matlou, Lebohang Ramalepe, Bongeka Gamede.

Midfielders: Linda Motlhalo, Refiloe Jane, Sibulele Holweni, Sinoxolo Cesane, Nomvula Kgoale, Nonhlanhla Mthandi, Amogelang Motau.

Attackers: Gabriela Salgado, Jermaine Seoposenwe, Thembi Kgatlana, Noxolo Cesane, Hildah Magaia, Nthabiseng Majiya.

The winner on aggregate over two legs will join Women’s World Cup champions Spain, Japan, and Brazil in Group C in Paris.

Paris 2024: Four African Teams Battle for Final Football Tickets at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament - Afrocritik
Paris Group C Olympics table

Zambia vs Morocco

Zambia’s national women’s football team made history by qualifying for the Olympics for the first time during the 2020 CAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament.  

Zambia emerged as champions, securing their place directly after qualifying on away goals with a 4-4 aggregate scoreline with Cameroon. Two goals in the first-leg loss to Cameroon in Yaoundé were enough. Cameroon, the runners-up, went on to play a play-off against Chile for a place at the Olympics, but they were knocked out as well. Grace Chanda scored eight times in Zambia’s run to direct qualification. 

After being granted a first-round bye, Zambia was ready to take on Mali. However, the Malians — who had defeated Burkina Faso by a narrow margin in the first round — withdrew, allowing Zambia to advance to the last and third round without a match.

Racheal Kundananji, whose move in January made her the most expensive player in women’s football, helped Zambia win 1-0 in their first-leg match against Ghana in Accra in February, during the third round of qualification. However, the second leg was a very tight affair, played at home in Ndola.

Zambia faced off against Ghana, and the stakes were high. Captain Barbra Bända scored eleven minutes into the first half to give Zambia a 2-nil lead. However, Ghana fought back, scoring twice to level the tie early in the second half. The tension escalated as Kabange Mupopo, who had previously competed in the 400m heats at Rio 2016, restored Zambia’s advantage. But then, Azumah Bugre’s powerful long-range shot for the visitors brought the aggregate score to an intense 3-3 after Kundananji was carried off the field.

As the clock ticked down, extra time seemed inevitable. But in a dramatic twist, six minutes into stoppage time, Banda stepped up to take a free-kick. With precision and determination, she sent the ball through the Ghanaian wall and into the net, securing Zambia’s victory and progression into the final round of qualification. 

Banda and Kundananji are expected to lead the lines again and deliver performances you expect from the two most expensive players in the history of women’s football. 

Paris 2024: Four African Teams Battle for Final Football Tickets at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament - Afrocritik
Zambia possible lineup

Catherine Musonda and Mwila Mufunte are unavailable in the goalkeeping department due to injuries. Chitete Musonda or Ngambo Musole are likely to be in goal when they face Morroco. Zambia can be a very cohesive side with or without injuries and is expected to weather through this one as well. 

Bruce Mwape provides a 34-member provisional squad list ahead of the games. 

Goalkeepers: Annie Namonje, Ngambo Musole, Eunice Sakala, Chitete Munsaka.

Defenders: Esther Siamfuko, Bernadette Mubanga, Martha Tembo, Lushomo Mweemba, Vast Phiri, Esther Banda, Pauline Zulu, Judith Soko, Thelma Chella.

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Midfielders: Grace Chanda, Misozi Zulu, Ireen Lungu, Rhodah Chileshe, Comfort Selemani, Salome Phiri, Evarine Susan Katongo, Avell Chitundu, Ruth Mukisi, Esther Muchinga, Mapalo Maluba, Prisca Chilufya.

Attackers: Barbra Banda, Racheal Kundananji, Eneless Phiri, Kabange Muppopo, Rachael Nachula, Namasiku Lungowe, Agness Phiri, Charity Mubanga, Fridah Kabwe.

 

Morocco also made it to the second round, when they easily defeated Namibia 4-0 on aggregate, winning each of the two legs 2-0 against Tunisia in the third round. In the first leg at Soliman, Tunisia ended 2-1 after Ghizlane Chebbak restored Morocco’s lead. Three minutes after, Tunisia levelled their score in the opening minutes of the first half.

However, the second leg in Rabat proved to be much easier, as they won 4-1 and kept their hopes of making their Olympic debut thanks to a first-half hat-trick by their captain Ibtissam Jraïdi.

Jraïdi, who is level with Rasheedat Ajibade on three goals, is the joint second-highest goalscorer amongst the teams still left in the qualifiers, with South Africa’s Thembi Kgatlana the only one with more. Jraïdi will lead the line and look to provide the goals that break Zambian hearts. 

Tottenham Hotspur attacker Rosella Ayane is also another attacker capable of hurting the Zambians despite struggling for game time in the Women’s Super League in England.

Paris 2024: Four African Teams Battle for Final Football Tickets at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament - Afrocritik
Morocco possible lineup

Jorge Vilda, the manager, called up 28 players for the qualifiers and here’s the full list. 

Goalkeepers: Khadija Errmichi, Inès Arouaissa, Zineb El Arari. 

Defenders: Zineb Redouani, Sabah Segir, Nouhaila Benzina, Aziza Rebbah, Siham Boukhami, Maryame Atiq, Hanane Aït El Haj.

Midfielders: Yasmin Mrabet, Élodie Nakkach, Najat Badri, Inès Kbida, Sarah Kassi, Salma Bouguerch, Anissa Lahmari, Inés Faddi, Sarah Kassi, Annisa Lahmari, Rania Boutlebi.

Attackers : Ghizlane Chebbak, Fatima Tagnaout, Imane Saoud, Rosella Ayane, Sakina Ouzraoui, Jade Nassi, Ibtissam Jraïdi, Safa Banouk, Yasmine Zouhir. 

Morocco has never played at the Olympics in women’s football, but they could become the only African side to have a men’s and women’s side at the Olympics this year. 

Zambia or Morocco will be placed in Group B alongside the United States, Germany, and Australia. 

Paris 2024: Four African Teams Battle for Final Football Tickets at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament - Afrocritik
Group B Olympics table

Match Schedule Guide 

Friday, April 5th – First Legs:

Zambia vs. Morocco – 15:00 GMT

Nigeria vs. South Africa – 16:00 GMT

Tuesday, April 9th– Second Legs:

South Africa vs. Nigeria – 17:30 GMT

Morocco vs. Zambia – 20:00 GMT

Tuka Letura is an experienced sports writer with over five years of experience in the craft. He uses data and statistics to provide analysis and commentary. From regional to worldwide competitions, he has covered a wide range of sports-related events and topics. He is devoted to sharing his enthusiasm for sports with his audience and engaging them with interesting anecdotes and viewpoints.

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