- CAF qualifying competition draw for #FIFAWWC 2023 took place on 10 May
- Qualifiers will double up as the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations Morocco 2022
- Derbies and big matches aplenty in the first round
Africa’s journey to the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ began in the Egyptian capital of Cairo on Monday 10 May with the draw for the qualifying rounds of the CAF Africa Women’s Cup of Nations Morocco 2022, which doubles up as the continent’s qualifiers for the World Cup.
It is sure to be an exciting tournament too. The first round features nothing but derbies, with the various teams being grouped together in their respective regions: CECAFA (east and central Africa), COSAFA (southern Africa), UNAF (north Africa), WAFU (west Africa), and UNIFFAC (central Africa). Those opening-day fixtures include meetings between Egypt and Tunisia in the north, Uganda and Ethiopia in the east, Mali and Guinea in the west, and South Africa and Mozambique in the south.
“We know Mozambique well because we play them a lot in the COSAFA Cup,” said South Africa coach Desiree Ellis. “They’re a physical side and they play attractive football. It doesn’t matter who you come up against; you can’t underestimate anyone. It’s a two-legged tie so things can happen pretty fast. If you don’t take the opposition seriously, it could cost you dear. Women’s football is developing everywhere and teams are getting better, which means we need to raise our game.”
When you’ve tasted the joys of a World Cup, there’s only one thing you want to do and that’s go back.
Among the first-round derbies are some genuine heavyweight clashes, with Nigeria and Ghana thrown together in a mouth-watering tie. Having made eight and three Women’s World Cup appearances respectively, the two nations have represented Africa more times at the competition than any other country.
“It’s a tough draw for sure,” commented Nigeria’s American coach Randy Waldrum. “We have a lot of respect for Ghana. We know their strengths and qualities. No matter how difficult the task and how great the pressure, though, every player has to be up for it. I’m ready to get down to work and prepare for the challenge ahead.”
“When you come up against a team of that calibre, you just want to work even harder,” said Ghana boss Mercy Tagoe. “We respect each other but we know we’re going to have to put in a bigger shift than usual against them. It’s good to know what we’re up against now. We can get to work with that goal in mind.”
Nigeria are the reigning champions and South Africa are hard on their heels. We’ve fallen away recently but we’re on the way back, ready to get back to our best.
The winners of the first-round ties (to be played over two legs, home and away) will go through to another knockout round that follows the same format. The winners from that second round will then advance to the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations finals, to be held in Morocco in 2022.
Having qualified for those finals as the host nation, the Moroccans have their sights set on a debut Women’s World Cup appearance. The national football association has signalled its intent by giving Reynald Pedros, The Best FIFA Women’s Coach for 2018, the task of making that dream a reality.
“We’ll be following the opening rounds very closely, not least the teams who regularly dominate the women’s scene here in Africa,” said the French coach. “We’ll wait and see what happens in the qualifying rounds and take it from there. We’ll be paying close attention and we’ve got respect for everyone too. We want to be one of the best women’s teams in Africa and if we’re going to achieve that goal we can’t leave anything to chance.”
Pedros added: “We can’t get ahead of ourselves. Our first goal is the Africa Cup of Nations. Being the hosts means we don’t have to go through the qualifiers. It’s fantastic that Morocco is staging the event and it goes without saying that we’ll be in it to win it. We’ll prepare hard and we know that if we can make it to the semi-finals, we’ll be going to the World Cup, which will be amazing. Morocco have never done that before, but we can’t afford to get ahead of ourselves.”