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Soccer News of Thursday, 9 January 2014

Source: Graphic Online

World Cup qualifier - Princesses storm Malabo

Ghana’s Under-20 female soccer team, the Black Princesses, are dreaming of a trip to Canada for their third successive Women’s World Cup.

That dream could, however, be scuppered by Equatorial Guinea who they play in the final round of the qualifiers.

Tomorrow, the Princesses, who have been busily preparing for this crucial hurdle, travel to Malabo to face Equatorial Guinea in the first leg of the final qualifying round tie on Saturday. Any result apart from a heavy defeat to Equatorial Guinea would enhance the Princesses’ chances of going to Canada for the WWC, and that is the mission Coach Bashir Hayford and his charges are embarking on as they storm Malabo.

Of course, the Ghanaians know it will be an uncompromising encounter, considering how the Black Maidens painfully edged out the Equatorial Guineans from the Under-17 World Cup qualifiers just last November.

After winning 2-0 in Accra, the Maidens, despite being forced to endure playing under floodlights without any prior notice won 3-2 in Malabo. It is that painful loss and the thought of losing again to another Ghana team that will push this encounter to uncompromising heights.

Equatorial Guinea are the only side to have won the African Women’s Championship (AWC) aside Nigeria, but they have not been that convincing in the age tournaments and even though they will play with quite a number of foreign import, particularly from Portugal, it remains to be seen if they will get the win they desire. They have had the benefit of playing throughout the qualifiers, beating Cote d’Ivoire and Zambia respectively home and away in the first and second rounds.

It will be a cagey one for the Princesses since this will be their first real test. Both the team and their fans have been denied the chance to assess the battle-readiness of the team as their opponents in the earlier qualifying rounds, Guinea Bissau and Uganda both pulled out of the qualifiers, forcing the Princesses to play only trial matches with some selected local teams, the last one being against a select side from the Ashanti Region last weekend.

Playing with two sets of teams, the first game ended 1-1, while the second ended goalless, with the Princesses wasting many begging chances.

While it may be a tough call for the Ghanaians, Coach Hayford can count on the experience of his players to pull through and ease the pressure of playing the final leg before an expectant crowd in Accra two weeks later.

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