Cote d’Ivoire overpowered Mali 4-0 in their 2014 African Women’s Championship (AWC) qualifier on Saturday in Abidjan to boost their chances.
‘Les Elephantes’ were simply too much for their West African counterparts, scoring three goals in the second half, in the first leg clash of the first round.
Jeanne Gnago opened the scores after four minutes from the spot before Estelle Nahi cemented the lead on 41 minutes. The Ivorians scored the third through Ines Tia Nrehi on 81 minutes before Rebecca Elloh signed off the win four minutes later with the fourth goal.
Elsewhere, southerners Zambia and Zimbabwe launched also their campaigns with narrow wins on Friday (February 14).
The She-polopolo of Zambia beat Tanzania 2-1 in Lusaka whilst the Mighty Warriors of Zimbabwe stunned their Botswana hosts 1-0 in Gaboroone.
The Zambians, seeking for their first ever appearance at a major women’s championship, gave their fans a huge cause to smile with victory against the highly rated Twiga Stars.
After failing to hit the back of the net in the opening minutes, the host finally managed to put their noses in front through Hellen Mubanga on 77 minutes, tapping in from close range after Tanzania goalie Fatuma Oman had spilled a shot unto her path.
Two minutes on, an own-goal by hard-pressed defender Sophia Mwasikili extended the lead of the Zambians, before Donasia Daniel handed the visitors a lifeline with a consolation in stoppage time.
Zambia coach, Charles Bwale said of his team “I am happy with the result and the way the girls performed. We will work hard so that when we go to Dar es Salaam in two weeks’ time, we can come back with a win,”
However, his Tanzanian counterpart, Rogasian Kaijage is convinced his charges will come good in the return encounter and book qualification to the next round.
“It was a balanced match, but my girls stopped playing when Zambia scored the opening goal. The second goal killed the game completely but we managed to score one goal and that is to our advantage. We will play to win in the return match.”
In Gaborone, Violet Bepete scored the only goal to hand Zimbabwe victory at the expense of their hosts.
In Algiers, Algeria silenced Morocco 2-0 in an-all Maghrebian affair. Striker Naima Bouhani-Benziane scored in each half, 12 and 56 minutes to power the Algerians to a comfortable win.
The second leg matches will take place on the weekend of 28 February to 2 March, 2014 with the winners progressing to the second round to join African champions, Equatorial Guinea, South Africa and Cameroon, who drew a bye at the first round.
Seven teams will emerge from the qualifiers to join hosts Namibia for the final tournament from 11-24 October, also a qualifier for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada next year.
14/2/2014 Algeria 2-0 Morocco
14/2/2014 Zambia 2-1 Tanzania
14/2/2014 Botswana 0-1 Zimbabwe
15/2/2014 Cote d’Ivoire 4-0 Mali