The second semifinal of the 2022 Wafcon has thrown up an explosive clash between the impressive hosts and the experienced defending champions
A ticket to Saturday’s final is up for grabs when Nigeria face Morocco later today in the semifinal of the 2022 Women Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon) at the Prince Moulay Abdallah Stadium in Rabat.
Both teams have already qualified for next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup after making it to this stage of the competition.
Very few things come close to lifting the ultimate trophy in the most significant female championship on the continent, though. And that would be the sole target of the two sides when they face off on Monday night.
As the most successful team at the Wafcon with a record nine titles, defending champions Nigeria need no introduction.
They suffered a bumpy start in Morocco, losing their opening match to South Africa.
But the coach Randy Waldrum-tutored ladies have not been found wanting since.
The Falcons carved out impressive victories over Botswana, Burundi, and Cameroon to maintain their record of reaching the final four of every edition of the Wafcon.
Only on two occasions in 11 previous attempts have Nigeria failed to proceed to the final after getting to this stage of the competition.
In Morocco, though, the Falcons meet a quality team capable of halting their momentum.
The Atlas Lionesses have been one of the best teams at this championship, claiming wins in the four games played.
The North Africans defeated Burkina Faso (1-0), Uganda (3-1), and Senegal (1-0) to top Group A and qualify for the knockout stages for the first time in history.
They continued their run further into uncharted territory when they beat Botswana 2-1 in the quarterfinals.
Led by Reynald Pedros, the French coach who guided Lyon to the UEFA Women’s Champions League in 2018 and 2019, Morocco play some excellent football.
On paper, Nigeria are the overwhelming favourite, but the Atlas Lionesses will not be easy prey in front of their darling supporters.
Head to head
Morocco should retain no good memories of the two previous clashes against Nigeria at the Wafcon.
In their first-ever meeting at the group stage of the 1998 edition, the Falcons humiliated the Lionesses 8-0 on home soil. That defeat remains the worst in Moroccan football history.
The two teams met again at the following edition in South Africa (Wafcon 2000), with Nigeria handing another 6-0 thrashing.
The Falcons went on to lift the trophy on both occasions.
But cheered on by the 50,000 fans expected at the Moulay Abdellah Complex, Morocco will look to be third time lucky against their West African sisters.
Competition: Africa Women Cup of Nations
Match: Morocco vs. Nigeria
Venue: Stade Prince Moulay Abdallah
Date: Monday, July 18, 2022
Kickoff: 9 pm (Nigerian time)
Player to watch
Even in the enforced absence of Barcelona striker Asisat Oshoala, Nigeria have shown that they have several matchwinners in their team.
Uchenna Kanu provided the crushing brace against Burundi, while Rasheedat Ajibade supplied the sucker punch that knocked out Cameroon last time out.
This game, however, looks like the perfect one for American-born Ifeoma Onumonu to make her mark.
Big, strong, and irrepressible, the 28-year-old striker was on target against Botswana. And she could prove too hot to handle for Morocco.
Given their track record and experience, Nigeria should be winning this by some comfortable margin. But Morocco have shown they will not be pushovers for anybody and this contest could be more closely fought than many expect.
The Super Falcons’ overall quality, though, should see them edge a tough encounter against this hungry Lionesses
Tip: Morocco 1 – 2 Nigeria