Three African national football teams have qualified for the Women’s World Cup in France. The Nigerians are veterans of the competition, while South Africa are contesting it for the first time.
Nigeria (Group A)
As eleven-time African champions, Nigeria have nothing left to prove in women’s football on the African continent – and they’ve been consistent on the world stage, too. The Super Falcons have not missed a Women’s World Cup since the competition began in 1991. They even made it to the quarter-finals in 1999.
But Nigeria did struggle to stamp their ticket to France this year. They finished runners-up in their group behind South Africa during the last African Cup of Nations, before ultimately beating the South Africans in the final on penalties.
For this World Cup, they drew a tough group: France, with the hosts playing at home, Norway and South Korea. But they can depend on star striker Asisat Oshoala, who was African Player of the Year in 2014, 2016 and 2017, as well as an experienced coach, Thomas Dennerby. The 59-year-old led his native Sweden to a third-place finish at the Women’s World Cup in 2011.
South Africa (Group B)
The South Africans are heading for a baptism by fire for their first-ever Women’s World Cup. The affectionately nicknamed Banyana Banyana (“The Girls”) qualified for the tournament in France by reaching the African Cup of Nations final.
The South Africans, too, will have their work cut out in France. Drawn in Group B, they face two-time world champions Germany (2003, 2007), China and Spain. Coach Desiree Ellis, a women’s football pioneer in South Africa, will help them rise to the challenge. Ellis was a founding member of the national team and won 32 caps during her playing career. The team can also count on captain Janine van Wyk’s experience. The 32-year-old defender is now the most capped South African player in history, men included, with more than 150 national team selections to her credit.
Cameroon (Group E)
Cameroon are enjoying their second consecutive qualification for the Women’s World Cup, four years after reaching the round of 16 in Canada. The Indomitable Lionesses have reached the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations four times, in 1991, 2004, 2014 and 2016, falling short to rivals Nigeria on all four occasions.
Cameroon stamped the third and final African ticket to France with their third-place finish in the most recent African Cup of Nations. Like Nigeria, they haven’t drawn the easiest group for this tournament. In Group E, they face Canada, New Zealand and defending European champions The Netherlands. Their attacking star is Gabrielle Onguéné, who scored the deciding goal in qualifying against Mali. The CSKA Moscow striker is one of Africa’s top players.