World Cup places will be up for grabs at the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations, which kicks off in Morocco on Saturday, with the top four finishers guaranteed a place in the 2023 finals in Australia and New Zealand.
Africa previously had three places at the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France, but with the field for the 2023 tournament expanded to 32 teams, there are now four automatic places for the continent and the possibility of two additional places via a proposal. from playoffs to 10 teams. tournament. The four semi-finalists of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations will qualify for the World Cup and there will be playoff matches to determine places five and six, with these two teams taking part in the Women’s Cup qualifying knockout tournament. world.
The African championship, organized in Casablanca and Rabat, and which takes place until July 23, is itself enlarged to 12 teams, the dominant position of Nigeria in women’s football on the continent being threatened. They have won 11 of the previous 13 African women’s titles and appeared in eight previous World Cups, but they will face a tough challenge from countries like Cameroon, South Africa and Zambia this year.
Nigeria and South Africa meet Monday in Rabat in a first group game which could be a marker of the outcome of the tournament. “They are a very strong and very competitive team,” said Nigerian striker Asisat Oshoala, her team’s most important player.
“But I don’t think the focus should be just on this game. There are also other teams to worry about. Nigeria beat South Africa on penalties in the final of the last Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana in 2018. The 2020 edition was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but South Africa last September beat Nigeria 4-2 in the final. away to a friendly in an eye-catching result.
“The first thing we have to do is avoid conceding because we’re always going to create chances,” South African coach Desiree Ellis said of their Group C opener on Monday. “It’s going to be a very close battle. Last September’s game showed we had quality but we lacked consistency and Nigeria always had that consistency,” she added.
Morocco’s 12 teams are divided into three groups of four. The top two from each group and the two best third-place finishers qualify for the round of 16. (Editing by Toby Davis)
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