Defending African Women Cup of Nations champions the Super Falcons of Nigeria have been drawn in Group B for the 2018 AWCON in a ceremony held in Accra, the Ghanaian capital on Sunday, 21 October. The Falcons who were seeded as defending champions have been paired with long time rivals Bayana Bayana of South Africa, Shepolopolo of Zambia and the Harambee Starlets of Kenya.
First time AWCON hosts the Black Queens of Ghana were paired with Algeria, Mali and 2016 runners-up the Lionesses of Cameroon in Group A. All matches in Group A will be played at the Accra stadium while Group B games will be played in the Cape Coast stadium.
The tournament will kick-off on Saturday 17 November with the hosts and three- time AWCON runners-up Black Queens taking on the Algerians in the first match of the tournament followed by Mali vs Cameroon at the Accra Stadium.
Ten-time champions the Super Falcons kick-off their title defence in the 15,000 capacity Cape Coast Stadium on Sunday, 18 November against bitter rivals Bayana Bayana of South Africa in a repeat of the 2016 semi-finals which the Falcons won courtesy of a Desire Oparanozie 54” minute strike. The other game in the group between the Shepolopolo of Zambia and the Harambee Starlets of Kenya will be played at the same venue on the same day.
The Falcons have won the last two championships in 2014 and 2016 without losing a game, winning nine of ten games, scoring 29 and conceding just 4 in that span. They play the Shepolopolo of Zambia in their second match on Wednesday 21 November. The Zambians who are making just their second appearance at an AWCON are yet to record a win at the finals. Their only other appearance was in 2014 in Namibia where they recorded a draw and two defeats.
The Thomas Dennerby tutored girls round off the group phase on Saturday 24 November against the Harambee Starlets of Kenya who are making their second appearance following their debut in Cameroon in 2016. The Kenyans who only made the tournament because Equatorial Guinea were expelled as a result of fielding ineligible players in the qualifiers, faced Nigeria in the group stages of the 2016 AWCON and were walloped 4-0 by the Super Falcons.
The top two teams qualify for the semi-finals with Group A winners taking on Group B runners up in Accra winner while Group B winners face off against the second placed team in Group B in Cape Coast. The semi finals will be played on Tuesday 27 November.
The third place match comes up on Friday, 30 November in Cape Coast while the final is billed for the Accra Stadium on Saturday, 1 December.
Tournament winners will be awarded $80,000 in prize money while the runners up will receive $40,000. The semi finalists will pick up $25,000 each while the third and fourth placed teams in the group will each receive $20,000.
The 2018 AWCON will also serve as qualifiers for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France with the tournament winners qualifying alongside the runners up and the third-placed team.
Only five African Countries have ever participated in the World Cup – Nigeria (seven times), Ghana (3 times), Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon and Cote d’Voire (all once).
Falcons Coach Thomas Dennerby has called up 48 players in preparation for the 2018 AWCON.
FULL LIST OF INVITED PLAYERS.
Goalkeepers: Tochukwu Oluehi (Rivers Angels); Christy Ohiaeriaku (Confluence Queens); Alaba Jonathan (Bayelsa Queens); Chiamaka Nnadozie (Rivers Angels); Onyinyechukwu Okeke (Edo Queens)
Defenders: Glory Ogbonna (Ibom Angels); Joy Jegede (Bayelsa Queens); Ugochi Emenayo (Nasarawa Amazons); Maureen Okpala (Confluence Queens); Mariam Ibrahim (Nasarawa Amazons); Sarah Nnodim (Nasarawa Amazons); Ngozi Ebere (Barcelona FC, Cyprus); Joy Duru (Nasarawa Amazons); Faith Michael (Pitea IF, Sweden); Onome Ebi (Henan Huisanhang, China); Juliet Lorliam (Nasarawa Amazons); Osinachi Ohale (Vaxjo DFF, Sweden); Josephine Chukwunonye (Asarum AIF, Sweden).
Midfielders: Osarenoma Igbinovia (Bayelsa Queens); Christy Ucheibe (Nasarawa Amazons); Amarachi Okoronkwo (Nasarawa Amazons); Ogechi Ukwuoma (Pelican Stars); Peace Efih (Edo Queens); Bashirat Amoo (Confluence Queens); Goodness Onyebuchi (Sunshine Queens); Nneka Julius (Edo Queens); Patience Agbokade (Sunshine Queens); Mary Anjor (Osun Babes); Ngozi Okobi (Eskiltuna UTD, Sweden); Rita Chikwelu (Krstianstand DFF, Sweden); Christy Adule (BiikKazygurt, Kazakhstan); Halimat Ayinde (Asarum AIF, Sweden); Ogonna Chukwudi (Krstianstand DFF, Sweden).
Forwards: Chidinma Okeke (FC Robo Queens); Anam Imo (Nasarawa Amazons); Alice Ogebe (Rivers Angels); Joy Jerry (Bayelsa Queens); Chioma Wogu (Rivers Angels); Rasheedat Ajibade (FC Robo Queens); Asisat Oshoala (Dalian Quanjian, China); Desire Oparanozie (En Avant Guingamp, France); Chinaza Uchendu (SC Braga, Portugal); Ebere Orji (MallbackensLysvik, Sweden); Esther Sunday (KonakBelediyespor); Uchechi Sunday; Courtney Dike (Oklahoma City, USA); Chinwendu Ihezuo (BiikKazygurt, Kazakhstan), Francisca Ordega (Washington Spirit, USA).