Banyana vs Atlas Lionesses final highlights waning Nigerian prowess

Banyana vs Atlas Lionesses final highlights waning Nigerian prowess
Jermaine Seoposenwe of South Africa is tackled by Martha Tembo of Zambia during their 2022 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations semifinal in Casablanca, Morocco, on 18 July. (Photo: ©Samuel Shivambu / BackpagePix)

This weekend, a successful 2022 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations will show the strides that Africa has made in women’s soccer. However, a large distance has been left to close, compared with the dominant continents in the game.

Hosts Morocco’s Atlas Lionesses take on South Africa’s Banyana Banyana this Saturday, 23 July, in Rabat, Morocco, for the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (Awcon) final. Awcon 2022 has demonstrated the waning powers of Nigeria’s Super Falcons, while highlighting the growth of soccer nations such as South Africa, Morocco and Zambia.

The African champions (Nigeria boasts a record nine titles in total, following their penalty victory over South Africa in the 2018 edition) failed to make the final for the first time in 10 years during the biennial continental showpiece, after falling to host nation Morocco in the semifinals this year.

Banyana finalists

Ironically, as is the case in 2022, Banyana Banyana were one of the finalists in the 2012 spectacle – losing to Equatorial Guinea in the final – after having ousted the Nigerians in that year’s semis.

In the Morocco-hosted 2022 edition, the South Africans and Nigerians managed to avoid each other in the knockout stages. Though, as they did in 2018 before losing in the final, Banyana Banyana shot down the Super Falcons in the group phase.

Before the enticing clash, which was both Banyana and the Super Falcons’ opening Awcon fixture in Morocco, South Africa’s coach, Desiree Ellis, afforded the African champions the respect they deserve, saying: “We want to start well and we know it is going to be a tough encounter. They are not champions for nothing.

“They have been consistent over the years and that is one area that we need to improve on; to be consistent in our performances and to be classified among the best.”

Banyana Banyana players celebrating

Banyana Banyana celebrate after their match against Tunisia in Rabat, Morocco, on 14 July 2022. (Photo: Twitter / @Banyana_Banyana)


In spite of that respect granted to the heavyweight Super Falcons, Ellis’s side followed on from their convincing win over Nigeria – in Nigeria no less – during the inaugural Aisha Buhari Cup, with another assured win over the team that has been the gold standard in women’s football in Africa in recent decades.

The win was a massive statement of intent by the South Africans. Especially considering that as recently as 2016, the duo’s head-to-head record stood at nine wins for Nigeria and just one for South Africa.

The latter’s maiden win came during that 2012 Awcon in Equatorial Guinea. It followed hot on the heels of the southern African nation arresting its long losing streak against the African giants with two draws in consecutive friendly games, which ended 1-1 and 2-2 in June 2012.

As an indication of a possible change of guard, Banyana Banyana’s recent 2-1 triumph meant the West Africans had failed to win in their past four clashes against the South Africans.

Back to the drawing board?

The story of African women’s football has for a number of decades depended on the aesthetic value given to it by the Super Falcons.

However, even as they extended their African record to nine titles in the competition’s current guise during the 2018 showpiece, they were not without significant challenges on their way to a penalty victory over Banyana Banyana.

Banyana Atlas Lionesses

Noxolo Cesane of South Africa clears during their 2022 Awcon quarterfinal against Tunisia in Rabat, Morocco, on 14 July. (Photo: Ryan Wilkisky / BackpagePix)

The Super Falcons delivered a rather lacklustre performance at that tournament. They were defeated by South Africa in their opening group game and required penalty shootouts in their semi and final wins.

According to former Banyana Banyana star forward Portia Modise – who suffered numerous heartbreaks at the feet of the Nigerians – holding onto past glories and superstars has been their undoing.

Modise, who scored 101 goals in 125 games for Banyana Banyana during a 15-year international career, said she was pleased that a new African champion would be crowned in Morocco. The outspoken 39-year-old also implored the Super Falcons to overhaul their squad and to give younger players a chance.

Seniors first

“One thing I see in the Nigerian team is that they don’t want to let go of the senior players. They need to give the young players an opportunity. Experience alone is not going to work,” said Modise during a virtual media event hosted by world football governing body Fifa.

“I see players that I used to play against [playing for Nigeria]. But now I am retired; they are still there. We need to give a chance to the young kids,” continued Modise.

“I am so happy that Nigeria is not part of the final. They have been dominating us for so many years. But it gives them an opportunity to go back home, to go back to the drawing board and to see how to come back with a winning mentality.”

Siomala Mapepa of Zambia is challenged by Bambanani Nolufefe Mbane of Banyana Banyana.

Siomala Mapepa of Zambia is challenged by Bambanani Nolufefe Mbane of South Africa during their 2022 Awcon semifinal on 18 July. (Photo: Weam Mostafa / BackpagePix)

The growing game

The 2019 Fifa Women’s World Cup was the final edition with 24 teams, before expanding to 32 for the 2023 tournament in Australia and New Zealand. According to Fifa, the 2019 tournament also set a number of milestones – including the number of eyeballs on a women’s World Cup, as well as the number of sponsors backing the women’s game globally.

Modise, who is a Fifa ambassador, is hoping that the increase in Africa’s automatic World Cup qualification spots from three teams in 2019 to four in 2023 at the quadrennial spectacle, will help qualified countries attract more financial support from the corporate sector, in order to have a fighting chance against the dominant US – as well as European nations – in future World Cups.

“The game is changing in the minds of a lot of people. It is now left to sponsors that need to take the risk and say they want to grow the women’s game,” Modise told journalists.

Banyana Banyana have qualified for the 2023 edition after making their tournament debut three years ago. They are joined by Nigeria, Morocco and the constantly rising Copper Queens of Zambia.

“The more African teams that qualify for the World Cup, the more we learn. It will make us see where we can improve and the performance we need to give in the World Cup [in future],” Modise added. 

“With the four teams that have qualified, it will be up to the federations how much effort and money they put in for the preparations, so the teams can do better and get to the last stages of the World Cup.” DM 


Comments - Please in order to comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.

Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

[%% img-description %%]

The Spy Bill: An autocratic roadmap to State Capture 2.0

Join Heidi Swart in conversation with Anton Harber and Marianne Merten as they discuss a concerning push to pass a controversial “Spy Bill” into law by May 2024. Tues 5 Dec at 12pm, live, online and free of charge.

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.8% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.2% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.2% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.2%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options