Nigeria-South Africa: Banyana and Super Falcons to rekindle rivalry in Cape Coast

After opening day games in Accra, attention is now shifted to Cape Coast where the top African sides are set to face each other on Sunday

Following the exciting launch of the 2018 Africa Cup of Nations in Accra, Cape Coast Stadium will host the super clash between Nigeria and South Africa.

The Banyana Banyana are hoping for a positive start in a bid to qualify for their first senior Women's World Cup in France next year while the Super Falcons are hoping to extend their dominance.

Both sides are set to renew their rivalry in what will be their ninth encounter at the women's championship since inaugurated in 2000, having met eight times in 10 previous editions.

Sunday's group stage clash will be the fourth between both top nations, with Nigeria celebrating victories in all, except the 1-0 semi-final loss at Equatorial Guinea 2012.

Interestingly, the winner came off the foot of captain Janine Van Wyk, who recently hit 150 international caps - the highest ever by any player for South Africa.

This time, the southern Africa giants will look to replicate their 2012 heroics in the bid to avert an eighth Awcon loss against the west African queens.

SQUAD NEWS

Probable South Africa XI: Lebohang Ramalepe, Janine Van Wyk, Nothando Vilakazi, Noko Matlou; Linda Motlhalo, Leandra Smeda, Refiloe Jane, Nompumelelo Nyandeni; Jermaine Seoposenwe, Christina Kgatlana,  Amanda Mthandi

South Africa coach Desiree Ellis will expect to put out the same set of players that defeated Cameroon 2-1 in the COSAFA Women's Championship final in September.

The maturing Linda Motlhalo and impressive rise of Refiloe Jane and exposure of Jermaine Seoposenwe plus experienced defender Van Wyk will count hugely of ambitious Ellis.

Having won the 2018 COSAFA Women's Championship in September, Sunday's tie with the reigning champions will definitely be a big best for Banyana, who enjoyed a good preparation.

Probable Nigeria XI: Tochukwu Oluehi, Oshinachi Ohale, Ngozi Ebere, Faith Micheal, Onome Ebi;  Halimatu Ayinde, Ngozi Okobi, Rita Chikwelu Amarachi Okoronkwo; Francisca Ordega, Asisat Oshoala, Desire Oparanozie

Nigeria coach Thomas Dennerby will be looking to make a winning debut at Awcon since he replaced Florence Omagbemi, who led them to win the tournament two years ago in Cameroon.

Despite lack of top friendly games and plenty months of hiatus, the Swede will expect goals from reigning African Women Player of the Year Asisat Oshoala, Desire Oparanozie and Francisa Ordega to make a bright start.

Captain Onome Ebi is likely to lead the defence line alongside Oshinachi Ohale, Swedish title winner Faith Ikidi and Ngozi Ebere. Halimatu Ayinde, Rita Chikwelu and Amarachi Okoronkwo dictating the game from the middle of the pack, while Federation Cup winner Tochukwu Oluehi be in goal.

MATCH PREVIEW

Bayana Bayana skipper Van Wyk is untroubled by the pedigree of eight-time champions, assuring that her side are ready to upstage the holders.

"Each and every year will always be different. We have to forget about the past and focus on the moment," she said.

"We have some experienced players in our team that have been playing this tournament for a while and some with over 100 caps and also playing overseas as well.

"We will see on the day who is the hungriest to go out and win the game. We will see how the game plays out [on Sunday]."

On their own part, an injury-free Nigeria will look to turn out in style but face a tall challenge with their poor build up to their campaign, having lost 3-2 to Dominion Hotspur U16 Boys, 3-1 to Asec Mimosas u16 Boys before a 4-0 win over Eleven Sisters of Dognan.

Expectedly, Dennerby is worried about his side's lack of quality test match going into their opener against South Africa.

“They [South Africa] have played a lot of friendlies about six or seven, improved the team, they’ve got better. It’s always tough facing them," Dennerby told media at the press conference.

“I am confident in my players, they are good but it will be tight, almost impossible to tell who will win.

“We have prepared well, only concern is a lack of friendlies against national teams after a couple of games against U16 boys team.

“So I’m not sure exactly where we are at this moment," he concluded.