The Super Falcons have won 11 of the 13 previous edition of the tournament, including the last three. They have a host of international stars, including Champions League finalist Asisat Oshoala of Barcelona Femeni, Rasheedat Ajibade of Atletico Madrid and Leicester City's Ashleigh Pumptre.
But there's reason to believe this year's WAFCON, which begins on Saturday in Morocco after the 2020 edition was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, might play out differently. Their last title in 2018 was a struggle, needing penalty shootouts to defeat South Africa and Cameroon in the semifinals and final to be triumphant in Ghana. They enter this tournament winless in their last two international contests, a loss and a draw to Olympic champions Canada.
Those signs of vulnerability to an otherwise impervious team provides a glimmer of hope to the WAFCON field, which will be 12 countries for the first time. But given their pedigree, it will still take a lot to dethrone the perennial champions. These are the teams with the best chance to snatch Nigeria's crown.
The emerging power in African women's football, South Africa will hope that their investments in the game pay off this year. They lost the 2018 final to Nigeria via penalties but handed the Falcons their biggest loss to an African side in a 4-2 defeat at an invitational in Lagos last year.
The Banyana Banyana will once again look to star player Thembi Kgatlana, who finished as top scorer in 2018 with five goals. The Atletico Madrid striker is one of the stars to watch at this year's tournament.
South Africa have one of the best organized women's leagues on the continent. The Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies won the inaugural CAF Women's Champions League title in 2021. They will hope that their recent successes propel them towards their first WAFCON title having lost five previous finals. Whether they can compete with Nigeria this time will be clear early on South Africa's first group stage game is against the defending champions.
The Indomitable Lionesses have been showing a lot of promise in recent years. They have played at the last two Women's World Cups, reaching the second round both times. Now they hope to show their progress by finally winning the African title.
Like many teams, their preparations have been slow due to lack of competitive games. They recently lost to France in a friendly after a win and a draw against Senegal.
Gabrielle Onguene and Ajara Nchout are the stars of the Lionesses. They have World Cup experience and will hope that their campaign in Morocco delivers another trip to New Zealand next year. And if they can finally stop the Nigerians from running away with another title, that would be the icing on the cake.
Hosts Morocco are one of the teams remaining with a faint hope of stopping the Nigerians from winning the title. Since linking up with former Lyon coach Reynald Pedros in 2020, the Atlas Lionesses have risen up the rankings with performances that have been encouraging. They have not lost a game in 2022, winning five of seven including a 2-0 victory against Ghana's Black Queens.
Playing in front of a home crowd at the Prince Moulay Abdallah Stadium in Rabat should give them extra confidence against the continent's biggest teams. They upset Cameroon last year at the Aisha Buhari Cup, their biggest continental win to date. With Pedros' pedigree in the dugout, Morocco should be one of the sides to challenge Nigeria.
Edited by: Davis VanOpdorp
Author Lolade Adewuyi
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