AWCON 2018: GROUP B MATCHDAY ONE WRAP UP

By Ekikere Udofia

Cape Coast City Stadium came alive as always when defending champions Nigeria began their campaign against South Africa in Group B of this year's Africa Women Cup Of Nations, AWCON.

With different groups adorned in colours as red, yellow, green and white, fans could not get enough of chanting, clapping, jeers and hailing within the stadium.

The Super Falcons had few supporters either dressed in their replica jerseys, mufflers, face caps or holding a small size flag of their country.

With 90 percent of the players in the Super Falcons’ squad termed "experienced" as against a South African side that had never played at the World stage, all pointers were to the Nigerian team to win this.

Alas, the ladies from Nigeria got a late sting in the 86th minute when Chrestinah Kgatlana brilliantly connected a cross from her teammate who was in the midfield axis and from the edge of the box attempted an angular shot on target.

BOOM! It hit Tochukwu Oluehi so hard that she was seen visibly accosting her teammate for not standing up to that challenge.

Three points of course went to the Banyana Banyana side at the end of it all, something, probably only the most optimistic of South Africans would have seen coming.

That seemed to have opened the way for the second game of the day as the Shepolopolo of Zambia thumped Equatorial Guinea five times to convincingly seal a 5-0 victory over the second most successful team ever in this competition.

The "rush hour" reinstatement of the Guineans into this year's AWCON was very glaring as they played like the real unprepared dogs.

Zambia on the other hand were a side with a full definition of young, athletic, but inexperienced players as they missed a couple of chances that could have seen them up to nine goals up against their opponent with Rachael Kundananji failing to make it a hat trick, missing a 76th minute penalty for her side.

They now sit comfortably on Group B with 3 points and Goal difference of +5.
South Africa is second with 3points and a +1 goal difference.

Nigeria’s Falcons get Zambia, South Africa warning
 
Chreestina Kgatlana
That didn't end there as the two most valuable players on the night sent a RED SIGNAL to the defending champions at post match conference.

"We've seen a lot of comments on social media but today everyone can see that football is not about Nigeria but it's about everyone who is "willing" to play against Nigeria". ~ Chrestinah Kgatlana ( MVP - Nigeria Vs South Africa).

"Nigeria here we come, just like a wounded buffalo, this time we have come for something and we are going to take it. This is not the Zambia you used to know. This is a new ZAMBIA just like the new faces you've seen". ~ Rachael Kundananji (MVP Equitorial Guinea vs Zambia).

As if Desiree Ellis rightly predicted at the post match presser, "it is not over until it is over and that has changed the mentality/mindset of teams in this group,” with Ellis admitting preparation was top notch for the team.

Equatorial Guinea here to just participate

The head coaches of the defeated teams, one of whom is Daniel Lola of Equatorial Guinea attributed his team's loss to the four day preparation which was the only option he had after the CAF reinstatement of his team.

He said the emphasis was on honouring this tournament by their participation to avoid being banned by CAF. Just maybe we shouldn't expect much from them.

True to his words, a second ban for the Guineans would be an added injury to the already existing FIFA ban they have.

Group B second round of matches takes centre stage on Wednesday, November 21 as South Africa play Guinea at 4:30pm while NIGERIA squares up with Zambia at 6:30pm.

Two sides of a coin. As COSAFA teams in group B garner all three points in the first round of matches so did West African teams in Group A on Saturday (Ghana 1-0 Algeria , Cameroon 2-1 Mali) followed suit.

The battle of a new era of dominance begins.
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