WAFCON 2022: Group C preview - Nigeria, South Africa, Burundi & Botswana

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Nigeria celebrate with the Women's Africa Cup of Nations trophyNigeria won the last edition of the Women's Africa Cup of Nations in 2018, beating South Africa in the final on penalties

The 12th Women's Africa Cup of Nations kicks off in Morocco on 2 July.

Africa's four qualifiers for next year's Women's World Cup will be decided at the tournament, which culminates with the final on Saturday, 23 July.

Here, BBC Sport Africa runs the rule over Group C, which includes defending champions Nigeria, South Africa as well as debutants Botswana and Burundi.

Fixtures

Monday, 4 July: Nigeria v South Africa, Burundi v Botswana

Thursday, 7 July: South Africa v Burundi, Botswana v Nigeria

Sunday, 10 July: South Africa v Botswana, Nigeria v Burundi (all group games in Rabat)

Nigeria

Nigeria celebrate after winning the 2018 WAFCON final shoot-out against South AfricaThe Super Falcons have won the past three WAFCON titles
Appearance: 12thBest finish: Winners (1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2010, 2014, 2016, 2018)
Coach: Randy WaldrumCaptain: Onome Ebi
Fifa ranking: 39Nickname: Super Falcons

There is really just one team to beat at WAFCON, and with the absence of Equatorial Guinea, the other only nation to have won the title, will Nigeria be on course for a record-extending tenth crown?

The Equatoguineans denied the West Africans in both 2008 and 2012, but the reigning champions, who won the first five WAFCONs, are now eyeing a fourth straight title.

Four-time - and reigning - African Women's Footballer of the Year Asisat Oshoala recently won Spain's Pichichi award after 20 league goals for Barcelona and will lead the way alongside veteran defender and captain Onome Ebi, now 38, while familiar names such as Francisca Ordega bolster the squad.

But coach Randy Waldrum, in charge of Africa's top-ranked side since 2020, has 13 tournament debutants in his squad, with the free-scoring Uchenna Kanu, Poland-based Macleans Chinonyerem, Gotham's Ifeoma Onumonu and Atletico Madrid's Rasheedat Ajibade among those to watch.

The American tactician oversaw a 2-0 loss and 2-2 draw against reigning Olympic champions Canada in friendlies back in April.

The Nigerians ensured qualification by seeing off the teams ranked fourth and fifth in Africa, earning a nervy 2-1 aggregate win over Ghana - after overturning a first-ever qualifying loss in the first leg - before defeating Ivory Coast (3-0 agg).

South Africa

South Africa's defeat in the 2018 final was their fifth overallSouth Africa's defeat in the 2018 final was their fourth overall
Appearance: 12th Best finish: Runners-up (2000, 2008, 2012, 2018)
Coach: Desiree EllisCaptain: Janine van Wyk
Fifa ranking: 58Nickname: Banyana Banyana

Always the bridesmaids but never the bride, South Africa - who lost their fourth final last time out - are hoping their 12th appearance will finally deliver a hitherto-elusive continental crown.

Despite losing the Ghana 2018 final on penalties to Nigeria, Desiree Ellis, coach since 2018, will believe they can break their jinx after upsetting holders Nigeria at the 2021 Aisha Buhari Cup.

Captain Janine van Wyk will be a vital cog in Banyana Banyana's bid for back-to-back Women's World Cup spots, as will Atletico Madrid's Thembi Kgatlana - player and top scorer of the 2018 finals - and other overseas-based stars such as Jermaine Seoposenwe, Refiloe Jane and Linda Motlhalo among others.

The recent 5-1 loss to the Netherlands in a friendly game will see two-time continental Women's coach of the year Ellis bank on young stars like Bambanani Mbane and Melinda Kgadiete from Mamelodi Sundown's African Champions League-winning squad.

The seven-time COSAFA champions cruised past Mozambique before subduing 2018 participants Algeria 3-1 on aggregate to maintain their record of being at every WAFCON.

Burundi

BurundiBurundi are the lowest-ranked team in Morocco
Appearance: DebutantsBest finish: n/a
Coach: Gustave NiyonkuruCaptain: Asha Jaffari
Fifa ranking: 169Nickname: The Swallows

Burundi have proved the doubters wrong, braving all odds to achieve their maiden appearance at the continent's showpiece.

The East Africans made light of the fact they were attempting to qualify for the first time by beating Eritrea 6-0 on aggregate before thrashing Djibouti 11-1 to achieve their historic feat.

Yet the tournament's lowest-rated teamexternal-link - ranked 169 out of 181 Fifa-registered nations - now finds itself facing Africa's strongest sides in group rivals Nigeria and South Africa.

Coach Gustave Niyonkuru will be looking to Simba pair Asha Djafari and Joelle Bukuru, who play in Tanzania, as well as the overseas-based trio Falone Sumaili, Salha Nduwayo and Saffira Guinand to cause upsets.

The Swallows' rise is connected to the technical efforts of Niyonkuru, who has overseen player growth from the Under-20s to the senior level since 2019.

Botswana

Botswana celebrate a goal by Refilwe TholakeleRefilwe Tholakele (left) is among the Botswana players who could light up the tournament
Appearance: DebutantsBest finish: n/a
Coach: Gaoletlhoo NkutlwisangCaptain: Bonang Otlhagile
Fifa ranking: 152Nickname: The Mares

Gearing up as first-timers, having qualified for the finals after six consecutive failures, Botswana are hoping to use women's football as a springboard to the World Cup.

They commenced their 2022 campaign by defeating Angola (7-1 agg) before impressively ushering out Zimbabwe on away goals, after a fine attacking display had seen them draw 3-3 over the two legs with their COSAFA rivals.

Taking to the field at WAFCON will be a triumph for coach Gaoletlhoo Nkutlwisang, who took over in 2008 and has had an evolving influence ever since.

After leading the Mares to a first COSAFA Women's Cup final in 2020, Nkutlwisang is eager to make an impression on her historic debut, despite being pitched against favourites Nigeria and South Africa.

The former Double Action captain will hinge her hopes on young midfielder Lesego Radiakanyo, who scored four goals during the qualifiers, US-based striker Thuto Ramafifi, nicknamed 'Queen of Goals', and Refilwe Tholakele, who contributed three goals in four matches.

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