Ghana football comes alive again this weekend when the 2018 Total Women’s Africa Cup of Nations begins in Accra on Saturday with all eyes on Ghana’s Black Queens as they take on their Algerian counterparts in the tournament opener, with Bashir Hayford’s side hoping for a winning start to fire up a host-and-win campaign.
One of Africa’s heavyweights, the Black Queens are still chasing an elusive continental title since they finished as runners-up to Nigeria in the maiden tournament in Abeokuta, Nigeria, in 1998.
Two decades later, during which they have twice finished second and thrice as bronze medallists, there is high expectation among Ghanaians that the home side will exploit their home advantage to win their first ever African title.
Algeria, on the other hand, are making their fifth appearance in the continental showpiece with very little to show in terms of achievement as their previous appearances ended at the group stage.
Their contrasting achievements present Ghana as the clear favourites tomorrow spurred on by a partisan crowd hungry for continental success.
And with the national under-17 side, Black Maidens, making a flying start to their FIFA Women’s world Cup campaign, there will be considerable pressure on the senior women’s team to make a winning start on home soil.
Victory will boost the morale of the Black Queens whose preparations towards this game were not convincing after losing 2-3 to Zambia, drawing 1-1 with Kenya in Nairobi before they managed to beat South Africa 1-0 in a warm-up games last Sunday in Accra.
Notwithstanding that uninspiring pre-tournament performance, the nation will be expecting the Queens to overcome all their challenges, including the non-payment of their three years outstanding bonuses, to give of their best and ensure victory.
But Coach Bashir Hayford believes the team has gone through enough finetuning to put them in good shape for the tournament, starting with a win against the Algerians.
“And coming this Saturday you will see a different set of Black Queens when we open the tournament against Algeria with a different performance for everybody to cherish,” Hayford said after their game against the Banyana Banyana.
Fortunately, the team have a clean bill of health going into Saturday’s match, as Elizabeth Addo is expected to play an inspirational role as captain with support from teammates Priscilla Okyere, Fafali Dumahisi, Nana Ama Asantewaa, Samira Suleman experienced goalkeeper Patricia Mantey.
Later tomorrow, Mali are expected to play Cameroun in the second group game.
On Sunday, title holders Nigeria begin the defence of their crown against South Africa at the Cape Coast Stadium after which Zambia’s Shepolopolo take on Equatorial Guinea at the same venue.