Will Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon make Africa proud at the Women's World Cup?
Image: Rovena Rosa/Agência Brasil, CC BY 2.0
Nigeria, South Africa, and Cameroon have all qualified for the Women's World Cup taking place in June. The three countries will represent Africa on French soil having finished first, second and third respectively in the African Cup of Nations, which was recently concluded in Ghana.
The host nation failed to make the World Cup after finishing third in the group stage behind Cameroon and Mali. The competition featured eight teams in total divided into two groups. The top two in each group proceeded to the semi-finals.
Group A consisted of Ghana, Algeria, Mali, and Cameroon. Group B featured Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, and Equatorial Guinea.
After three rounds of matches, the semi-final pairings were Cameroon versus Nigeria and South Africa against Mali. The games ended in wins for Nigeria and South Africa.
Both then squared up in Sunday's final. Nigeria carried the day. The third-place match had been played on Saturday, with Cameroon emerging victorious.
Those outcomes booked the three teams' tickets to fly the continent's flag in France. How well will they perform?
South Africa will join their two counterparts which both took part in the World Cup's last edition three years ago. It was Cameroon's first ever appearance in the competition. They made it a relative success, leaving Canada as the only African side to reach the last 16.
Unfortunately, football in Africa has not made any significant progress during the past few years. Although 11-time African champions Nigeria have continued to dominate, they have retrogressed.
In the recent African Women Cup of Nations, Nigeria lost their opening group game to South Africa. It was their first defeat to the Banyana Banyana in the tournament's history. The Super Falcons secured progress to the next round by winning subsequent two matches, in which one was a 6-0 thrashing of hapless Equatorial Guinea, a team which lost all their contests by five or more goals.
Despite dominating Africa, Nigeria have failed to make any mark on the global stage. They propped up their group in the last World Cup. In a recent friendly against France, they were whitewashed 8-0.
South Africa have shown real promise, including a good Nations Cup performance that culminated in reaching the final. Talents such as Thembi Kgatlana, the tournament's top player, Linda Motlhalo and veteran captain Janine van Wyk have been instrumental to the team's rise. However, it's difficult to expect much from them and teammates due to a lack of experience. A first World Cup appearance will likely prove a challenge too far.
For Cameroon, June will be their second successive appearance in the competition. Several foreign-based players, including Gabrielle Onguene, Ngo Ndoumbouk and Feudjio Tchuanyo Raissa, have all stood out recently. Yet, the Indomitable Lionesses require much improvement in order to put up a good showing on French soil.
As such, expectations should be minimal for the African World Cup representatives. In fact, progress to the later stages will be a surprise given the current state of things.
The Women's World Cup has been dominated by a small number of teams, with the United States at the forefront. Every tournament usually produces a surprise package, though. Will 2019 be the year for Africa?