Women’s World Cup 2023: Setbacks for Africa’s four qualifiers in friendlies

Women’s World Cup 2023: Setbacks for Africa’s four qualifiers in friendlies
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Africa’s four qualifiers for next year’s Women’s World Cup all suffered fresh setbacks in their preparations for the tournament in Australia and New Zealand.

South Africa, Morocco and Nigeria experienced humiliations in their latest friendly matches, while visa issues meant Zambia had to call off a scheduled warm-up game in Europe.

After being outclassed by Brazil in two friendlies last month, African champions South Africa were thumped 4-1 by Australia in London.

Desiree Ellis’s Banyana Banyana were without a host of key players, including captain Janine van Wyk and United States-based Thembi Kgatlana – with the latter recovering from an injury suffered at the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon) in July.

The Matildas dominated by scoring three times in the first half and a fourth in the 53rd minute before Hildah Magaia netted a beautiful consolation towards the end.

“We were looking for an improved performance. It’s not where we wanted to be but it’s step by step and I felt we have improved,” said Ellis.

South Africa have played 13 games in the calendar year, scoring 15 goals but conceding 25 times (including five at the Wafcon).

Despite losing three friendlies by an aggregate score of 13-1 against two nations ranked in the world’s top 12, Ellis was impressed with her team’s response.

“A lot of positives for us because I thought it was a better performance,” she said.

“We tested some new players and I thought they really raised their hands. That’s the big positive for us – and we scored a goal.”

Pain in Spain for Morocco

Elsewhere, Wafcon 2022 hosts and runners-up Morocco suffered back-to-back 4-0 defeats against Poland and Canada in Spain.

The Atlas Lionesses, ranked 76th in the world, were also missing key players including captain Ghizlane Chebbak, defender Hanane Ait El Haj and Tottenham striker Rosella Ayana, who are all injured.

Coach Reynald Pedros admitted the North Africans played against two highly experienced sides before their maiden appearance at the World Cup.

The Frenchman said “important lessons” were learned in the loss to Poland in Seville on Thursday, while Canada found out “how difficult it is to break down” his defence in Jerez on Monday.

Morocco had previously faced Canada twice in February 2001 in Rabat, with the visitors winning the opener 4-0 before losing the rematch 1-0 two days later.

Falcons flying without wings

Nigeria were beaten 4-0 and 2-1 by the USA last month, and pressure on coach Randy Waldrum is increasing

Nigeria coach Randy Waldrum, meanwhile, has again come under criticism from local media after the Super Falcons’ 2-0 defeat by Japan in Kobe.

The West Africans were deprived of six regular starters in Asia and Mina Tanaka scored twice within a four minute second-half period, while brilliant goalkeeping from Chiamaka Nnadozie prevented the 2011 world champions from increasing the score line.

After a disappointing Wafcon semi-final exit on penalties, the nine-time African champions are winless in three friendlies since then.

Conceding eight times and scoring once in three lethargic performances has increased the pressure on the American coach.

“We can be proud of the women who gave Japan a fight,” said Waldrum.

“I am proud of their development and I think the fans will be proud of their performance at the World Cup.”

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) board, under then-president Amaju Pinnick, announced in August that it was reviewing the team’s Wafcon performance, saying a “thorough evaluation of the capability of the coaching crew to lead the team to a creditable performance at the World Cup” is ongoing.

But the newly elected NFF boss Ibrahim Gusau is yet to comment about the future of Waldrum.

Zambia grounded as Senegal and Cameroon await draw

Elsewhere, Zambia could not travel to Breda for their friendly against the Netherlands on 6 October because of visa problems.

The game was cancelled with their European hosts unable to rearrange another fixture.

“Despite many efforts by the Dutch and Zambian FA and the authorities involved, it was unfortunately not possible to bring Zambia to the Netherlands for the match,” said Dutch FA (KNVB).

Despite the four qualifiers all suffering an underwhelming international break, Africa’s number of representatives at the 2023 Women’s World Cup could yet increase.

Senegal and Cameroon will contest a 10-team intercontinental play-off in New Zealand next February, where three slots for the World Cup will be available.

Chile, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Haiti, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay and Thailand have also booked their places at that tournament, with Europe’s sole representative yet to be decided.

A draw for the play-off is set to be conducted later this month, and the World Cup is scheduled to be played from 20 July to 20 August next year.

-BBC

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