ACCRA, November 20, 2018 – Six matches gone and the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations has so far been a bag of surprises.
First, an organised South African side silenced defending champions Nigeria, then the tournament’s least-ranked team, Zambia delivered a five-star performance against two-time champions Equatorial Guinea for their first-ever Women’s AFCON victory.
Tuesday came and the stage looked set for Ghana to become the first team to reach this year’s semi-finals, but the hosts were served their own slice of surprise as they fell 2-1 to Mali in a match they had under control.
It was Mali that got the first goal of the game through striker Bassira Toure, and they led 1-0 at halftime. However, the lead was not to be trusted considering Les Aigles had surrendered a 1-0 lead only three days earlier to lose 2-1 to Cameroon.
In the second half, Black Queens captain Elizabeth Addo was brought into the game and she won a penalty which she converted on 71 minutes to restore parity. But Mali would not let Deja Vu prevail as Woman of the Match Toure completed her brace three minutes later to secure victory as well as a massive step towards reaching the semi-finals of the Women’s AFCON for the first time.
“I want to congratulate my players for the performance today. We watched the game against Cameroon again and identified our mistakes, so we worked at it and it worked today,” said Houssein Saloum, Mali’s head coach.
Hence, three-time runners-up Ghana are now in a precarious situation with regards to their chances of progressing to the knockout stages. They cannot afford to lose their final group match against Cameroon.
“I am not overly disappointed with the result because we played over 70 per cent of the game,” Ghana head coach Bashiru Hayford stated at the post-match press conference. “We lost and as a coach I take all the blame. This is a match that we played better than what we did against Algeria.”
“We have not been eliminated in the competition because we have one more game to play on Friday. So we will still go back to the drawing board and make sure that we win irrespective of what might happen in the other last Group A game.”
Meanwhile the Indomitable Lionesses of Cameroon have already booked their place in the semi-finals with a 3-0 victory over Algeria on Tuesday.
After having to come from a goal down in their opening game against Mali, they enjoyed a straight forward win over their less experienced North African counterparts courtesy of goals from Gabrielle Aboudi Onguene, Gaelle Enganamouit and Nchout Njoya Ajara.
Cameroon may have already qualified for the last four of the tournament but coach Joseph Brian Ndoko will not be taking their final group game lightly.
“We came with one vision and that is to qualify to the final of the competition again and so far so good as we are on course.
“Our next game is against Ghana and we are going to tackle it the same way we did in the two games we played despite qualifying to the next stage of the competition.”
All through the game against Cameroon, Algeria were restricted to just two shots with none of them on target and Algeria coach Radia Fertoul admitted that Cameroon were a more experienced side, adding that, “We lost our key player (Naima Bouhani) three weeks to the tournament as the team was built around her so that affected our strategy, but the girls did their best under the circumstance and played well.