AWCON 2018: Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia in final group battle- the odds, permutations and small talk

By Ekikere Udofia

As the last round of matches in the group phase of the 2018 African Women Championship takes centre stage in Group B, let's get into the permutations and combinations.

Group A is already done and dusted as Cameroon and Mali scale through to the semifinals.

Algeria lost to Mali 3-2 as Cameroon played out a 1-1 draw with host Ghana.

In what appeared to be a decider for hosts Ghana and with Nigeria's Patience Madu at the centre of the game between Algeria and Mali, Cameroon finish on top of Group A with 7 points and Mali in second position with 6 points.

Host Ghana failed to qualify for the knockout stages for the first time in 18 years, having not missed out on any edition in two decades.

For Group B that has the "big names" and most successful teams since the inception of this tournament, all is looking dicey for the defending champions Nigeria.

A win for them by a wide goal margin against Equatorial Guinea is enough to see them through to the semis as the game between South Africa and Zambia also play a big role in deciding who finishes first and second in the group.

South Africa already have one leg in the semis as a win or draw ensures they finish on top of the table.

A loss for them could be tricky as they could slip to second in Group B pending the outcome of Nigeria Vs Equatorial Guinea.

Zambia still stand a chance as they play a major role in determining if the defending champions scale through or not based on their ability to get a win convincingly against South Africa.

Equatorial Guinea pose no major threat to any team in Group B as they have already conceded 12 goals scoring only once in two matches but they could be spoilers for Nigeria if they pull up a surprise and win or draw.

What the teams are saying

"The team goal is more important for me for now. We just need to qualify for the World Cup next year and then we can now start thinking of retaining the trophy afterwards". ~ Asisat Oshoala

"We have prepared so well against Equatorial Guinea to get the three maximum points to qualify from Group B" ~ Rita Chikwelu

"I hope we will have our best performance against Equatorial Guinea and I hope it will stay the same way and improve more in Game four. We keep on working, do the right things and don't worry so much about what's happening around us. ~ Thomas Dennerby

"We care less about our opponents’ result. We are here to play until the end.
Since 2008 I have continually worked hard with the team but this year I don't understand what went wrong. This is a young team, we have a future. I just hope that we keep learning and get to the top". ~ Genevova Anonman

"I can boldly say we are out of the competition but concerning the match against Nigeria, we are going to play. We never give up until it is 90 minute. No winner until the final whistle ends the game" ~ Jean Paul Pila

"We haven't lost any confidence despite losing to Nigeria. We remain focus ahead of the game against South Africa. South Africa is only a team like every other team. I believe we are a big team as well. We are just hoping for the best in tomorrow's (today) game" ~ Hazel Natasha

Against Equatorial Guinea, my girls expressed themselves accordingly. Against Nigeria, game discipline killed us. We allowed too many goals in the second half through our full backs who couldn't position themselves rightly. We have no serious injuries and suspension. We just look forward to playing a good game" ~ Bruce Mwape

"We need to get good results from tomorrow’s game, we have to go for the win because it’s dangerous to go for a draw" ~ Desiree Ellis

"The spirit is high because we are confident of a win tomorrow (today)”. Leandra Smeda.

Nigeria face Equatorial Guinea on Saturday at 4pm local time (5pm Nigerian time) at the Cape Coast stadium while Zambia play South Africa at the Accra sports stadium simultaneously
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