As usual, the battle for semifinal slots at the ongoing FIFA Women’s World Cup will begin today in Australia and New Zealand, but no African team is in the lineup.
Since the commencement of the Women’s World Cup at China ‘91, no African team has made it to the last four.
The Super Falcons of Nigeria, who were the sole candidate at the inaugural edition in 1991, remains the only African team to play in the quarterfinal stage. But that was as far back as the USA ’99 edition under the late coach Ismaila Mabo.
Nigeria also made it to the round of 16 at the 2019 edition held in France. This year, expectations were heightened, when three of the four African teams made it to the round of 16.
However, the hope of an African team featuring in the quarterfinal stage went up in flames on Tuesday, after France pounded Morocco 4-0 in their Round of 16 encounter.
Before then, the Super Falcons of Nigeria had shown glimpses of brilliance in the three group matches by drawing 0-0 against reigning Olympic champions, Canada, beat co-hosts, Australia 3-2 and drew with Republic of Ireland. But their dream of getting a quarterfinal ticket was quashed by the Three Lionesses of England, who despite a red card to their dangerous striker, Lauren James, won 4-2 on penalties after playing goalless in 120 minutes.
The Banyana Banyana of South Africa fell by the way side in their round of 16 clash with The Netherlands, losing 0-2. The fourth African team, Zambia, had since waved goodbye in the preliminary round despite winning their last group match against China. The Zambians left the World Cup with 14 goals deficits.
The battle for the semifinal slots begins today, and all eyes will be on the European confederation, UEFA, which has the bulk of the contestants, five countries out of eight. These are England, The Netherlands, France, Spain and Sweden.
The Asian confederation has two candidates, Australia and Japan, while South America has one, Colombia. Sadly, African continent that boasts 54 nations in FIFA, has no team to team to contest in the quarterfinal, which will see each of the players pocketing $90,000.
Beginning from this morning, African football fans will only watch as ‘spectators’ when Spain tackle The Netherlands, and Japan face Sweden. Tomorrow, co-hosts, Australia, will trade tackles with France, while England face Colombia.
To coach Edwin Onowvotafe of Cable Football Academy, the failure of an African team to make it to the quarterfinal stage in Australia and New Zealand is as a result of the deficiencies in the quality and standard of football in the continent.
“I almost took a bet that at least, one African team must qualify for the quarterfinal after Nigeria, South Africa and Morocco made it to the round of 16,” Onovwotafe told The Guardian. “It is really disappointing that all the three teams crashed out in the round of 16. It showed Africa still have some distance to cover in the Women’s World Cup.”
With the defending champions, USA, out and strong teams like Brazil and Germany failing to progress from the group stage, the trophy is now looking the Europeans’ way. As it stands now, at least one European country is guaranteed a semifinal finish and also make the podium on Sunday, August 20 in Australia.