Ghana's Black Queens crashed out of the of the 2018 Total Women's Africa Cup of Nations after playing a heartbreaking 1-1 draw game against Cameroun in their last group match at the Accra Sports Stadium on Friday.
The result meant Mali, who defeated Algeria 3-2 in the other Group A game played simultaneously at the Cape Coast Stadium, will join winners Cameroun to the semi-finals of the competition.
Their failure to reach the semi-finals also means that Ghana will miss the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, as the top three teams at the Women’s AFCON will represent the continent at the world stage.
On Friday, the Queens played their best game of the competition so far and took a deserved lead to raise the hopes of Ghanaians. But a 41st minute howler by Ghana’s goalkeeper, Nana Ama Asantewaa, who gifted the Camerounians a spot kick after fouling Gabrielle Onguene, changed the complexion of the game altogether.
Coach Bashir Hayford’s team started the game on a good note by taking the game to the Indomitable Lionesses and signalled their intent in the 24th minute when captain Elizabeth Addo came close to opening the scoring after she was beautifully set up by Sherrifatu Sumaila, but the midfielder’s shot narrowly missed the post.
However, in the 31st minute, Ghana took the lead through Portia Boakye whose long free kick near the touchline sailed above all the players in the Cameroun’s goal area, including their goalkeeper, Annette Ngo Ndom, into the net.
Ghana scored a deserved lead but gifted their opponents an avoidable penalty
The goal fired up the Ghanaians in search for more goals as news filtered in from Cape Coast that Algeria had taken the lead against Mali.
However, an indiscreet tackle on a Cameroun attacker by the Ghana goalkeeper, who was handed her first start ahead of Patricia Mantey, handed the Lionesses a spot kick, which was converted by their captain, Manie Christine Patience.
As the match wore on, the pendulum swung from one side to the other, with the Ghanaians, in particular, in desperate search for a win to possibly save their host-and-win campaign which became a pipe-dream when the referee brought proceedings to a halt with disappointment written all over the faces of the Ghanaian players and officials.
After the match, the Ghana coach said he would not resign his post and explained that the absence of an actively running women's league might have affected the performance of his players
He disclosed that if he was retained, he would build a strong local team where foreign-based professionals would be required to justify their inclusion in the national team.
"...It is not me... I am a teacher, always ready to impart and ready to train the team," Hayford said.
"Judging from my track record, no one comes close. If I am fit and I am still alive and they say come and help, I will. If they also say I should rest, I will."