Ed Malik, A
Nigeria and Zambia will battle for the bronze medals of the 12th Women
Africa Cup of Nations as from 9 p.m. on Friday at the Complexe Mohamed V in
Casablanca – Morocco’s economic and industrial capital.
Head Coach of Copper Queens, Bruce Mwape said on Thursday that his girls
have put behind them the controversial defeat to South Africa –
through an added-time penalty that is still a talking point at these
“We gave our all and created chances but we failed to take them and
that was a mistake that we paid dearly for in the end. We have put that
behind us and now, we want to win the bronze medals for our people.”
On his part, Coach Randy Waldrum is optimistic that the Super Falcons
will give their all despite a rash of injuries and suspensions in the
camp of the nine-time champions.
“We have two players suspended as a result of red cards in the last
game, and we also have some players down with injury. So, there will be
changes but we will go for the best legs that would give us victory on
Captain Onome Ebi has been knocked out by a hamstring injury (biceps
femoris muscle tear – Grade 2) and could require between six weeks to
two months to recover. She suffered the injury in the gruelling semi
final battle against Morocco on Monday that the Falcons lost on penalty
shoot-out in Rabat.
Forward Rasheedat Ajibade, who has been a cornerstone of Nigeria’s
campaign with some mesmerizing moves, measured pull-outs and three goals
to the kitty, picked up the Woman of the Match award in the quarter
final defeat of Cameroon. However, she is out of Friday’s encounter
alongside tenacious midfielder Halimatu Ayinde. Both were sent out in
the match against the host nation.
“We have a mountain to surmount, surely, but we are ready and will
approach the game like the final match,” defender Ashleigh Plumptre
said at Thursday’s pre-match conference.
Mwape will bank on team captain Grace Chanda to inspire the Copper
Queens against the Super Falcons. Chanda has been the rallying point of
the southern African nation since the beginning of the tournament, in
the absence of the talismanic Barbara Banda.
While goalkeeper Hazel Nali (injured against South Africa) is doubtful
for Friday’s encounter, Nigeria would again rely on the agility and
awareness of goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie, whose string of saves kept
the Falcons in the game against Morocco until the penalty shoot-out. She
was highly deserving of her Woman of the Match award in that tie.
With Ebi out, Waldrum could start with the US–based Payne sisters
(Toni and Nicole) on either side of the rear wings, with Osinachi Ohale
and Plumptre at centreback. Peace Efih, who scored one of the goals in
the 4-0 defeat of Burundi in the group stage, could start in the absence
of Ayinde, with the effervescent Gift Monday a probable to start in
place of the suspended Ajibade at the fore.
The Copper Queens drew 0-0 with Cameroon in their opening match, before
1-0 and 4-1 wins over Tunisia and Togo respectively shot them to the
quarter finals, where they edged Senegal 4-2 after penalty shoot-out.
The Falcons lost 1-2 to South Africa in their opening game before
beating Botswana and Burundi 2-0 and 4-0 respectively, and Cameroon 1-0
in the last eight.