African football chiefs urged to expand women's Cup of Nations within four years

·3-min read
© Paul Myers/RFI

A tactics brains trust on Tuesday called on African football supremos to expand the women's Cup of Nations tournament from 12 to 16 teams within four years to help the development of players and teams.

The 2022 competition in Morocco is the first of the 14 events organised by the Confederation of African football (Caf) to boast 12 nations.

Since its inception as the African women's championship in 1991, eight sides have competed for the continental crown.

But the technical study group (TSG), which is monitoring styles and phases of play throughout this year's competition, says the confederation should not rest on its laurels.

"If we open up the tournament, there will be more opportunities for more countries," said Namibia women's national team coach Jacqui Shipanga.

"The confederation has more than 50 members and we have a 12-country tournament for women? And there are so few opportunities for growth and exposure.

Chance

"The Cup of Nations is the big chance. It's the tournament where players and coaches can get new opportunities.

"I'm not saying 20 or a 24-team tournament - let's stick to 16 and that would be a great legacy for the current leadership of the Caf."

Shipanga's call for an expansion within four years came during an explanation of the TSG's work to decide accolades such as player-of-the-match and determine who is selected in the best XI of the competiton.

"It's how influential she has been, the technique she has shown, her tactical awareness defensively and in attack and how she has carried her team to a level," said Clémentine Touré, who coaches Cote d'Ivoire's women's team.

Shipanga, Touré and the Ghana national team coach Mercy Tagoe said they had also been analysing patterns of play that have emerged during the competition's 26 matches so far.

"Teams seem to be much more collective," added Touré.

"Morocco, South Africa and Zambia are probably the best examples of this. They construct from the back, play along the aisles or through the middle.

Success

"There's also been much more of the heading game," Touré added.

"One of the clichés was that there weren't many headers with women but we have seen more of it here in Morocco.

"Ultimately teams that have played more collectively have had the most success."

The Cup of Nations - which served as the qualifying tournament for next year's World Cup - ends on Saturday with the final at the Prince Moulay Abdallah Stadium in Rabat between Morocco and South Africa.

Both sides are guaranteed a place at the 2023 extravaganza in Australia and New Zealand along with the beaten semi-finalists Nigeria and Zambia who will contest the third place-play off on Friday night at the Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca.

The group also urged a review of the decision to place teams in a regional qualifying competition.

"Zoning doesn't help some countries," said Tagoe whose Ghana side went out to the 11-time champions Nigeria in the first round of qualifiers last October.

"They beat us 2-0 away and we won 1-0 at home and that was it. The thing is the zoning idea helps teams like Botswana and Togo take part in the Cup of Nations. So new talent is on show but some of the bigger teams are left behind."

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