How the AWCON 2022 qualifying format puts Nigeria's participation at the 2023 World Cup at risk

The Super Falcons of Nigeria has never missed any edition of the FIFA Women World Cup since its inception in 1991 but the qualifying format put out by Confederation African Football for the 2022

Super Falcons (Twitter/Super Falcons)

African Women Cup Of Nations ( AWCON) in Morrocco, but the participation of Nigeria at the 2023 FIFA Women World Cup at risk.

The qualifiers are set out along the regional lines as against the former format which allows the teams to make it to the competition irrespective of the location of the team.

With this new regional restriction, the qualifiers become tougher in some regions where the development of the game is better when compared to other regions where there is less competitiveness among the teams within the region.

The most affected by this new format is the West African region, where teams like Nigeria, Ghana, Mali, Cote d'Ivore reside of which at least two of these powerhouses in Africa women football will miss out on the 2023 AWCON slated for Morrocco, based on their geographical location.

Going by the fixture released by CAF, the Super Falcons of Nigeria will play Ghana on a home and away basis, with the first leg in Lagos on October 20 and the return leg in Accra will be played on 26 October 2021.

Based on the current form, the outcome of the match between the two countries is highly unpredictable as both countries will just give their best to ensure their qualification for the next round of the competition.

The winner over the two legs will qualify for the next round to face the winner of the match between Cote d' ivore and the Niger Republic early next year.

The game is very important as it also holds the key to the participation of Nigeria at the next FIFA Women World Cup in Australia and Costa Rica in 2023.

This is because the AWCON will also serve as the qualifier for the World Cup, this will add something extra to the competitiveness of the fixture.

The semi-finalists at the AWCON will qualify for the world cup automatically and the next best two teams will play inter Continental playoffs to determine their participation at the 2023 World Cup.

No doubt in any competition in Africa where the top four or top six teams is required, the Super Falcons is a sure candidate but with Black Queens of Ghana as an opponent in the qualifier, it makes the qualifier a more difficult task and the long term rivalry between Nigeria and Ghana make it's even a risky affair.

For the Super Falcons to qualify for the World Cup, they need to beat Ghana first then negotiate a way past Cote d' Ivoire ( or Niger), to qualify for the AWCON before they can now be looking at making the top 4 or top 6 as the case may be to qualify for the world cup.

The fact the Ivorians stopped the Super Falcons from attending the 2020 Tokyo summer Olympics in the qualifier, and that the Super Falcons must overcome the Ghana barrier first, makes qualifying for the 2023 FIFA Women World Cup panicky and should give a true lover of Nigeria women football something to ponder.

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Olusola Adebayo is a highly-skilled, enthusiastic, self-motivated writer with over 10 successful years of experience.

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