Nine-time champions Super Falcons of Nigeria will face arch-rivals Black Queens of Ghana in the first round of qualifiers for the 2022 African Women Cup of Nations (AWCON).
The 2022 AWCON serves as qualifiers for the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
The draw for Morocco 2022 AWCON was conducted on Monday in Cairo by Heba Sarwat, the Senior Manager of Women Football & Futsal at the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
Egyptian footballer Nadine Ghazy assisted in conducting the draw.
Aside from Morocco who has qualified as hosts, the draw saw a record 44 member associations who will be participating in the qualifying series.
The tournament will be the first edition organised under the format of 12 teams.
Matches in the first and second legs of the first round fixtures will hold between June 5 and June 15.
Also, matches in the first and second legs of the second round fixtures will hold between Oct. 18 and Oct. 29.
However, CAF’s Women Footballer of The Year 2018, Thembi Kgatlana, is among several African football stakeholders who berated the Confederation of African Football (CAF) for pairing Nigeria against Ghana in the first round of the qualifiers.
Nine-time champions Super Falcons were pitted against the Black Queens in the draws held at the CAF Headquarters in Cairo, Egypt on Monday.
Both legs will be held between June 7 and 15, with Falcons hosting the first leg, before travelling to Ghana for the reverse fixture.
Winners of the tie face the winners between Niger and Ivory Coast in another round of qualifiers between October 19 and 28.
With the draw, it means two out of superpowers Nigeria and Ghana, and emerging force Ivory Coast, who are highly favoured to beat Niger, will not make it to the AWCON and the Women’s World Cup, which infuriated major followers of the continent’s women’s game.
“The draw was coming alright until they announced that Ghana will play Nigeria,” Banyana Banyana striker Kgatlana tweeted.
Ex-Falcons star, Stella Mbachu, also questioned the criteria used by CAF to arrive at the draw.
“CAF did not do it well, they should have done it so that the two teams will have the chance of being at the AWCON, to make the competition more interesting. Putting them with Nigeria now, one of them must drop.
“What this means is that at the AWCON, we will have weaker teams competing,” Mbachu stated.
Journalist Colin Udoh took a dig at CAF, saying the football body don’t value women’s football.
“Everyone involved in this at CAF should be ashamed of themselves,” Udoh tweeted.
“To pit two of the historically and current strongest teams in Africa against each other in the first round of qualifying, does a huge and disgraceful disservice to the African women’s game.
“If ever proof was needed that CAF does not rate the women’s game, this right here, is it.Out of a sense of evil, I hope Ghana and Nigeria get knocked out, followed by Cameroon and let CAF have its AWCON.
“The AWCON needs eyeballs. Games like those involving the likes of Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, South Africa playing against each other is what draws those eyeballs. But no, self-sabotage must be an intrinsic part of the CAF DNA,” Udoh added on Twitter.
Nigeria – who are the highest ranked African country in the world – have won the AWCON a record nine times and have been at every Women’s World Cup since inception in 1991, while Ghana have been to the Women’s World Cup three times – 1999, 2003 and 2007.
The Black Queens are the fourth most successful country at the AWCON, emerging runners-up three times and third another three times.