So far, there has been two sides to the 10th Women’s Africa Cup of Nations story, with regards to confirmed progression and elimination.
While Group A produced the first semi-finalists of the tournament, with hosts, Cameroon, leading the way, Group B confirmed Kenya’s departure as they watched their semi-final hopes fade into the dark skies of the Limbe Omnisport Stadium on Wednesday.
But here is the interesting thing about the final group battles, the remaining three teams in each group, whose fate must be sealed on Friday (today) and Saturday (tomorrow), all still have a chance of making it to the last four.
In Group A, Cameroon, having amassed six points in two matches, just needs a draw against Zimbabwe to confirm their place as leaders of the group, but their opponents require not just a victory, but a spoon full of luck as well, if they are to advance.
A draw and a defeat in their last two games means the coach Shadreck Mlauzi’s Mighty Warriors no longer have their destiny in their own hands. And that is the exact same story of their southern neighbours and fellow Rio 2016 Olympics participants, South Africa.
Not even a goal yet to show for all their troubles, the Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana now have a slippery Egypt to contend with by 4pm today at the Limbe Omnisport Stadium, while hoping that whatever result filters out of Yaounde will be in their favour.
In the meantime, South Africa Captain, Janine van Wyk believes the knockout round is still very much within their reach.
“We know what we need to do when we face Egypt on Friday (today), and we believe we can still make it to the semi-finals. We have been in tough situations before and came out victorious, so we are not too afraid of what the future holds for us.
We just need to bring out our A game in the next match and ensure that we score the goals that we need. The good thing is that it is still in our hands.”
Only last month, Interim coach Desiree Ellis, in her first match in charge, oversaw Banyana Banyana’s 3-1 victory over Egypt in an international friendly ahead of this tournament.
At the moment, Egypt occupies that second semi-final slot with three points. Taking another three from South Africa, will definitely make their dream come true. A draw may not be the answer to their prayers – that is if Zimbabwe wins.
In Group B, Nigeria leads the way with four points and a plus six goal difference, while Ghana sits in second with a plus two goal difference. Both teams looking delicately poised for the semi-finals.
The Super Falcons of Nigeria may seem safely through mathematically, but in their quest to secure their top spot, they cannot afford to underrate the wounded Harambee starlets of Kenya, who do not want to go down without a fight and three points.
They have shown that they can play good football, with swift build ups to an opponents goal. Nonetheless, it’s still insane to think that Kenya would beat Nigeria, how much more, by a large margin.
However, Yaounde is where Group B’s bone of contention is. Ghana versus Mali. Victory for one will most likely be the downfall of the other. But the Black Queens of Ghana can make do with a draw.
Both teams have, in their last two games, shown grit in coming out of difficult situations, and now that they face each other, much more should be expected.