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Opinions of Sunday, 18 November 2018

Columnist: Umar-Farouk Atipaga

AWCON 2018: It’s Ghana’s time for gold

It is that time of the year when the best on the continent have gathered for the biennial African women’s championship – Africa’s flagship women’s competition. Ghana, one of the powerhouses on the continent, has been handed the mandate to host the showpiece for the very first time since the tournament kick-started in 1991.

The competition has been heavily dominated by the Super Falcons of Nigeria after winning the gold medal ten times, which includes winning the title seven consecutive times from 1991 to 2006.

Aside the Nigerians, Ethiopia follow as the second most successful team with two titles. Interestingly, Ghana is fifth on the log with three runners-up appearances behind South Africa and Cameroon, who have both chalked four runners-up appearances apiece.

Going through the history of women’s football on the continent, it still remains a big surprise why Ghana’s Black Queens are yet to register their name in gold.

For all eight participating countries in the 2018 AWCON, each team will first be targeting a place in the top three in order to earn a spot at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.

Suffice to add that Equatorial Guinea will not make it to the World Cup, should they qualify, as they continue to serve a FIFA ban for fielding ineligible players during the qualifiers for the 2016 Rio Olympics Women’s Tournament.

But for host nation Ghana, that burning desire to win their maiden AWCON will keep filling their thoughts.

Even though preparation has not been at the topmost level, Bashir Hayford and his team would certainly not gloss over the fact that Ghanaians expect the trophy at all cost.

With women’s football growing and gaps beginning to narrow, the Black Queens have to put up a great fight to overcome group A opponents Algeria, Cameroon and Mali. Meanwhile, Group B also comes with a set of credible candidates in Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Equatorial Guinea.

In the last decade, Ghana has been consistent in producing good teams at the U-17 and U-20 Women’s World Cup, therefore, judging from the angle of transition, the team shouldn’t be lacking, in terms of the requisite materials to take up this challenge.

The team can also boast of as much as thirteen international players, who are all consistent for their respective clubs.

But the task as expected would be daunting – Nigeria still maintain their place as the top favourites; in fact, any of the two semi-finalists from Group B will pose a big thereat to the chances of the Ghanaian Ladies.

Understandably, the Black Queens will be under pressure in their quest to stage a host-and-win tournament.

Regardless of all the odds, there is still no better time for captain Elizabeth Addo to lift the trophy than the 2018 edition on home soil on December 1, at the Accra Sports Stadium.

While major football activities in Ghana have been on break since June this year, winning the AWCON 2018 would certainly be the right activation of football appetite as the FIFA Normalization Committee seeks to complete their task early next year.

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