Harambee Starlets are just 90 minutes away from qualifying for their second appearance in the Africa Women Cup of Nations (AWCON).
What the team only need is a draw of any type against two-time Africa champions Equatorial Guinea in a final round qualifier match at Estadio Nkoantoma de Bata on Saturday. A win would make it beyond doubts and guarantee the team a ticket to the continental event.
Coach David Ouma’s charges grabbed a crucial and surprise 2-1 win on Wednesday at home to head to the return leg with a slight advantage over the West African country that boasts eight players plying their trade in European clubs including in the Spanish top flight Primera and Germany’s Bundesliga.
“We have built momentum ahead of the away match but we expect them to come hard at us on their own turf so we have to be economical with the ball and avoid conceding while pushing hard to cancel the away goal.
We used first breaks at home but we have to change that and control the tempo of the game away. We also have to use our set pieces well as they can help us win the match since open play away can be hard to come by,” said Ouma.
Goals from Terry Engesha and second half substitute Esse Akida handed Starlets the advantage which they now have to guard if they are to feature in the AWCON tournament from November 17 to December 1 where they will also be fighting for a chance to play in the 2019 FIFA World Cup as the top three teams will automatically qualify for the global showpiece.
“My players believe in themselves and they know what they have to do to complete the task. The players’ recovery has been a crucial part of our short preparations for the return match and we have to be patient and play our game knowing that the winning goal can come even at the last minute of the match. Ball possession will also come in handy in this match,” Ouma said.
His Equatorial Guinea counterpart Daniel Lola, however, believes they have an advantage over Starlets, having an away goal, playing at home and having scored first in their away match.
Seven teams qualify for the AWCON tournament with the eighth team, Ghana, having qualified automatically as the hosts. Nigeria are the defending champions of the event on its 11th edition.