WAFCON 2022: Group A previews – Morocco, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Uganda

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The 12th Women’s Africa Cup of Nations kicks off in Morocco on July 2.

The four African qualifiers for next year’s Women’s World Cup will be decided at the tournament, culminating in the final on Saturday July 23.

Here, BBC Sport Africa leads the rule over Group A, which includes hosts Morocco, Senegal, Uganda and debutants Burkina Faso.

Group A meetings

Saturday July 2: Morocco v Burkina Faso (Rabat)

Sunday July 3: Senegal v Uganda (Rabat)

Tuesday, July 5: Burkina Faso v Senegal, Uganda v Morocco (Rabat)

Friday July 8: Morocco v Senegal (Rabat), Burkina Faso v Uganda (Casablanca)

Morocco

Can Morocco, the host country, go to the final at home?






Appearance: 3rd Best finish: Group stage (1998, 2000)
Coach: Reynald Pedros Captain: Ghizlane Chebbak
Fifa ranking: 77 Nickname: Atlas lionesses

Returning to the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON) after 22 years of absence and with a view to a first place in the Women’s World Cup, Morocco have their status as host country to thank for their automatic qualification.

The North Africans emerged in the first finals in 1998, when they had their best run – amassing four points and their only win to date (a 4-1 win over Egypt) – but missed the round of 16 final on goal difference before falling. after their second trip to the final in 2000.

In 2020, a four-year women’s football development program was introduced which helped AS FAR – which contributes more than half of the squad – to become zonal champions before winning bronze in the Last year’s African Women‘s Champions League.

The team has also been boosted by the arrival in 2020 of French coach Reynald Pedros – two-time European Women’s Champions League winner with Lyon – who took over, enjoying a 12-match unbeaten streak against African teams.

The 2020 North African champions have played many games over the past year, stunning Cameroon in September at the 2021 Aisha Buhari Cup where they also beat Ghana and Mali, among others.

They have an admirable array of talent, including AS FAR duo Sanaa Mssoudy and Ghizlane Chebbak (daughter of former men’s international Larbi Chebbak), and Dijon midfielder Salma Amani, who has 18 years’ experience in Europe.

Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso are one of four debutants at this year’s tournament






Appearance: Beginners Best finish: n / A
Coach: Pascal Sawadogo Captain: Charlotte Millogo
Fifa ranking: 138 Nickname: The Stallions

Burkina Faso are the top-ranked of the four nations making their WAFCON debut this year and arrive with a squad where all but two players are based at home.

Not the first team that comes to mind when you think of Africa‘s strongest footballing nations, the Stallions – aided by notable absentees – are nevertheless among the top eight teams in the final according to the Fifa rankings.

After his hard-hitting takeover in November, coach Pascal Sawadogo – founder and coach of multiple cup-winning Etincelles – will rely on captain Charlotte Millogo, star striker Juliette Nana, 21, and Moroccan Limata Nikiema to make a splash.

After shining for Belarusian Neman Grodno with 22 goals in 25 league appearances, Nana will be one to watch in a team that eliminated Benin (5-2 agg) before sweeping Guinea-Bissau (7-0 agg) to reach his first finals.

Senegal

Senegal pulled off a surprise by qualifying ahead of their West African compatriots, Mali






Appearance: 2nd Best finish: Group stage (2012)
Coach: Mame Moussa Cisse Captain: Safietou Sagna
Fifa ranking: 89 Nickname: Lionesses of Teranga

After 10 years away, Senegal are back on the continental stage and looking to improve on their only previous performance in 2012 when they scored zero and conceded seven.

After defeating Liberia in the first round of playoffs, the Teranga Lionesses surprised none other than Mali, who reached the 2018 WAFCON semi-finals, to secure their second appearance.

Qualification via a penalty shoot-out rewarded Senegal’s investment in women’s football, with the country also recently reaching the final round of African qualifiers for the Under-20 Women’s World Cup.

After taking charge at the start of 2020, Mame Moussa Cissé – who is excelling this time, after a failed qualification attempt in 2016 – will rely on the French trio Safietou Sagna, Marseille playmaker Awa Diakhaté and Nguenar Ndiaye.

Senegalese national women’s football has seen recent growth, with last season’s two-time winners US Parcelles Assainies (USPA) supplying eight players, including striker Hapsatou Malado Diallo, who is just 16 years old.

Uganda

Uganda, returning to WAFCON after a 22-year absence, won the Cecafa Cup in June






Appearance: 2nd Best finish: Group stage (2000)
Coach: Georges Lutalo Captain: Ruth Aturo
Fifa ranking: 156 Nickname: crested cranes

The East African nation may be the second-lowest-ranked team in the competition (156th), but they reached Morocco after shocking Ethiopia before being offered a return ticket thanks to the withdrawal from Kenya.

In what will be their second WAFCON appearance, but first in 22 years, the crested cranes will be guided by experienced coach George Lutalo.

He took over as coach last September and edged them out on penalties – a result ultimately good enough to take them to WAFCON and one that came weeks after collapsing early after being invited to the Cosafa Women’s Cup 2021.

Lutalo, who manages local league side Onduparaka, proved his mettle and his charges come in strong after winning the Cecafa Cup just a few weeks ago, beating fellow debutants WAFCON Burundi 3-1 in the home final June 11.

Foreign-based players like Finnish goalkeeper Ruth Aturo, Kazakhstan Women’s Cup winner Fauzia Najjemba, aged just 18, and Rita Kivumbi and striker Violah Nambi, based in Sweden and Austria respectively, will be the key to a positive display.

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