AWCON Final: Falcons Battle Banyana Banyana For Ninth Title.

 AWCON Final: Falcons Battle Banyana Banyana For Ninth Title.

The Super Falcons will engage South Africa in the final of the 2018 African Women’s Cup of Nations at the Accra Sports Stadium on Saturday (today).

The Nigerians are seeking their ninth African title and a defence of the title they won in Cameroon two years ago while the South Africans are looking for their first title in their third final.

Nigeria have never lost a final in the history of the AWCON while South Africa have lost three previous finals – twice to Equatorial Guinea and once to Nigeria. Today’s game is the second time both sides are meeting in the final of the competition. Their first meeting was in 2000 when Nigeria won 2-0 in Johannesburg to win their second title.

The Falcons defeated Cameroon 4-2 on penalties in the semi-final to book a place in the final while Banyana Banyana beat Mali 2-0 to reach the final.

The two sides have met 11 times previously with Banyana recording only two wins while the Falcons have won nine times. The most recent of the meetings was on November 20 when Bafana beat Falcons 1-0 in Group B’s opening match.

Having both qualified for the France 2018 World Cup, the Falcons are gunning for revenge in the final tie.

But Banyans Banyana, the COSAFA champions, are out to prove that their group stage was not a fluke.

Both sides are fully motivated for the match with cash rewards available for the teams if they win the title. Nigeria Football Federation president Amaju Pinnick has promised to reward each member of the Falcons with $10,000 if they defend their title successfully. Before the tournament, Banyana’s sponsors had promised the team a reward of $11,700 if they claimed the title.

While Banyana coach Desiree Ellis will have to alter her line-up for the game after vice-captain Jane Refiloe was recalled by her Australian club Canberra United, Nigeria coach Thomas Dennerby will have the complement of his full squad.

Ellis said her side want to win their first title against Nigeria, adding that the team would miss Refiloe.

“We are prepared. Our aim was to get a World Cup slot. We have gotten it, but there’s nothing stopping us from creating history twice at this tournament. Having got this far it would be naive not to want to win but we have to implement our plans very well,” Ellis said at Friday’s pre-match press conference.

“Yes, Jane will be missed but we have a squad and we will utilise the squad. We don’t have a team, we have a squad and it’s an opportunity for other players to show what they can do.”

But Falcons coach Dennerby believes his players are motivated to win the title.

“We are carrying on with the same plans as always, we will have to improve our attacking play against the better teams and hopefully we will see an improved performance tomorrow (Saturday),” Dennerby said at the pre-match press conference on Friday.

“All our players are fit to play except something happens before the final. It is my first time of coaching on the continent and nobody will be happier than me if we can win. We need to stay strong defensively, we need to pass a bit more rather than play early long balls because that makes it easy for the opposition defenders.

“We need to take our chances and play like we did against Zambia and Equatorial Guinea. We had treatment for all the players, rehab training, a post-match meeting and we’re looking forward to the game.”

Ayomide Oyewole

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