Black Queens set Olympic target: Ready to end past heartaches, says captain
Black Queens captain, Portia Boakye, has reiterated the team’s determination to pick a ticket to the Paris Olympic Games and will not allow Zambia to stand in their way when they face off in the penultimate round of the qualifying competition next February.
She said that after booking their place at next year's Women's Africa Cup of Nations, securing a historic Olympic berth was their next target and they would not relent in their pursuit.
Over the years, the women's national team have suffered heartbreaks after coming close to qualifying for the world's greatest multi-sport competition. This time, however, Boakye says the Black Queens are ready to fight and banish past Olympic disappointments.
“I can say that we are ready for Zambia. When we finished our last game in Pretoria [final Women's AFCON qualifier against Namibia] we had a discussion on the rest of the Olympic Games qualifiers and the coach has given each of us a task to undertake while we go on the Christmas holiday,” she told journalists on the team's return to Accra from their AFCON qualifying triumph.
“They will be monitoring our progress and checking our strength, so preparations are ongoing and I can say that we are ready for the Zambians. We just need Ghanaians to support us in this campaign too.”
Ghana began the first round of the Olympic qualifiers with a resounding 7-0 aggregate win over Guinea 7-0 with back-to-back victories (3-0, 4-0) over the two legs last July.
Subsequently, the team recorded a 5-0 aggregate win over Benin and now face Zambia in the third round of the qualifiers, with the winner of the two-leg encounter progressing to the final round for a spot at the Paris Olympics.
Boakye, who plays for Swedish side Djurgården, admitted the weight of expectation to excel at the next Women's AFCON, having missed the competition since Ghana made a first-round exit as hosts in 2018, but said the players would draw on their experiences from past tournaments at FIFA tournaments to make an impact at the continental competition in Morocco next year.
“We know the level and expectations of the Women's AFCON because the majority of us play outside with just about three local players, and most of us have been to the U-17 and U-20 FIFA Women's World Cups, so we know how these competitions play out,” she said.
Qualifying for the Olympics has always been a hurdle for the Black Queens who missed the boat to the 2004 Athens Games after losing 2-3 on penalties to the Super Falcons of Nigeria in the final qualifying game played in Accra. Four years later, the Nigerians again denied Ghana a place at the 2008 Games in Beijing.
For the 2012 London Olympics, the Black Queens suffered an embarrassing exit from the qualifiers, despite beating Ethiopia 2-1 in their second leg duel at the El-Wak Stadium in Accra. They needed a 2-0 win to cancel out a one-goal deficit suffered in the first leg in Addis Ababa.
The losing trend continued in 2016 (Rio Olympics) and 2020 (Tokyo Olympics) after the Ghanaians were eliminated in the qualifiers by Cameroun and Kenya, respectively.