ACCRA, November 19, 2018 – An inexperienced Mali team was defeated 2-1 by Cameroon on the opening day of the African Women’s Nations Cup in Ghana, but remains hopeful to qualify for the knockout stages of the tournament.
Lively first half – Saturday’s group A clash was fierce and physical with both teams creating chances at the start of the game. Fatoumata Diarra and team captain Fatoumata Doumbia came close to scoring for the Eagles of Mali in the first minutes of the game. Mali kept the pressure on a more experienced and tactical Cameroon side, ripping into their defence on several occasions. Cameroon also had their chances in the game but failed to convert them into goals, ending the first half goalless.
Cameroonian dominance – Cameroon had control for much of the second half, but Mali’s efforts paid off in the 52nd minute when 20-year-old Aissata Traore hit the target from a swift counter-attack. Mali’s victory was however short-lived as 20 minutes later Cameroon’s Meffoumettou Falone responded with an equalizer. Just two minutes later, Njoya Ajara scored a second goal for Cameroon that would suffice for all three points. Cameroon and Ghana top group A after a victory each. Algeria and Mali will battle for their first points on the second day of play.
Poor preparations – The Malians have blamed their loss to Cameroon on poor preparations ahead of the tournament. “Back at home in Mali, we do not have a female league that could help us prepare enough for this tournament, we had to play with young boys from football academy and other local teams to prepare ourselves for this tournament,” said Mali’s lone goal scorer, Aissata Traore.
Despite this poor preparation, the Malians were able to put up a tactical and defensive game against their opponents Cameroon, who are currently ranked amongst the best in Africa. This is Mali’s sixth participation at the African Women’s Cup of Nations and their squad is packed with very young home-based players. Malian journalist Awa Kamissok also said that the crisis in the Malian Football Association is partly to be blamed for the team’s poor preparation ahead of the competition. “The girls did not have friendly matches before this tournament,” said Ms Kamissok.