2019 AWCON: One last dance for SA & Nigeria as the women cap off a superb tourney
Nigeria and South Africa will play each other in the 2018 AWCON finals this Saturday. The winners will be crowned the champions of the continent for the next two years.
The tournament has come full circle as these two teams will meet for the second time in the finals of the 2018 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations. The Super Eagles conceded a crucial goal in the first encounter and lost the match. Banyana Banyana have played the entire tournament with the same energy and vigour they had during that euphoric 1-0 win. On Tuesday, Banyana dismissed Mali in the semi-final in which they put two goals past Les Aigles without any response from the West African side. While Nigeria had earlier beat out Cameroon in a penalty shoot-out where Cameroonian star player Gaëlle Enganamouit failed to convert from the spot.
South Africa is on the threshold of making history and claiming their very first AWCON title. The 2-0 semi-final victory over Mali already ensures that they will be at the FIFA World Cup in France next year. All eyes are on head coach Desiree Ellis to see whether or not she will be able to do the amazing and lead South Africa to both their first world cup appearance and their first continental cup trophy. The coach who led SA to the 2018 COSAFA title triumph has done an incredible job with the team so far and could be bound for the spectacular.
"Everyone was magnificent, the players, staff, technical team and the people who don't usually get a mention as each and everyone played a part.”
Desiree Ellis, South Africa Head Coach
The Nigerians are very familiar with this stage of the tournament, making it to the finals more times than any other team on the continent. As defending champions, the pressure is on them to assert their dominance over their highly motivated counterparts. The Super Falcons have been less impressive than their foes from the south in this tournament. Despite this, head coach Thomas Dennerby is confident that they can overcome Banyana Banyana to lift the trophy for the 11th time come Saturday.
“When it comes to the final we will do whatever it takes to bring the cup back to Nigeria. ...We have a very good chance to beat South Africa, now it's time to rest two days, the extra day before the final.”
Thomas Dennerby, Nigeria Head Coach
Prior to the finals on Saturday, Cameroon and Mali will play each other in the third-place playoff where the winner will also book a place in next year’s FIFA World Cup. This will be a consolation prize for The Indomitable Lionesses who failed to make it to the finals after the penalty shoot-out lottery missing out on a good chance of lifting the trophy.
The 2018 AWCON finals are set to be high-energy and tightly contested, one that promises to be an exciting watch. For now, it’s too close to call who will emerge as champions after Saturday’s final. What remains is to pick a side; Banyana Banyana or The Super Falcons, who is your favourite to take the trophy home?