Olympics: About the African Teams, Cameroon and South Africa

The 2012 Olympic women’s soccer tournament will feature two new teams from Africa, Cameroon and South Africa, as this is the first time that Nigeria did not qualify for the Olympics, and the first time that Africa has two whole spots in the final field. Having never qualified for a Women’s World Cup, these two teams are also new to the world stage, and thus, unfamiliar to most fans of women’s soccer.

(Note: The African Olympic qualifiers, which were organized by the Confederation of African Football (CAF), was set-up as a two-legged (home-and-away) knock-out affair, which was contested over several months in 2011.)

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CAMEROON

Population: 20,130,000
GDP Per Capita: $2,300 (Rank: 184th)
FIFA Rank: 52 (March 2012)
Rank in CAF: 3
Team Nickname: The Indomitable Lionesses (“Des lionnes indomptables“)
(Population and GDP information is from the CIA Factbook.)

Cameroon is a team on the rise, with its current world ranking of 52 being its highest ranking since the FIFA Women’s World Rankings were introduced in 2003. Cameroon is only one overall place behind the second-best African team, Ghana (rank #51), which it defeated in the gold medal match of the most recent All-Africa Games.

How They Qualified: In the first round of qualifying, Cameroon defeated Mali (currently #95 overall, #11 in CAF)  5:0 and 1:0 (6:0 aggregate). Then, in the second round, Cameroon lost to Equatorial Guinea (currently #66 overall, #5 in CAF) , but Equatorial Guinea was disqualified for fielding an ineligible player, so Cameroon was reinstated (BBC news article). In the third and final round, Cameroon tied perpetual African heavyweight Nigeria (currently #27 overall, #1 in CAF) 3:3 on aggregate (1:2, 2:1) and won on penalties 4:2.

Notable Players: The squad’s captain is forward Madeleine Ngono (FIFA profile), who current plays in France for En Avant de Guingamp (profile page with photo). She had the only goal (a header during the run of play) in Cameroon’s 1:0 victory over Ghana that earned them their All-African Games gold medal.

Rumored to be in the mix for the Olympics are the Banecki twins, left-footed Nicole (FIFA, de.Wikipedia) and right-footed Sylvie (FIFA, de.Wikipedia). Both grew up in Germany and played for Germany’s youth women’s national teams, including the U-20 WNT at the 2008 U-20 WWC (Chile), where Nicole started all six matches and had two goals and two assists, while Sylvie played in two matches and had one goal. Nicole has also been capped five times by the German senior WNT (DFB.de statistics), with her last appearance in 2009. Those caps were only in friendlies, with four of the matches being at Algarve Cups.  The sisters are currently with FC Bayern Munich’s women’s team (Nicole’s profile, Sylvie’s profile).

Further Viewing: Amateur video from Cameroon’s second match versus Nigeria is available on YouTube. Here are Cameroon’s two goals from that match.

Goal 1:

Goal 2:

Also, the second half of that match is available as well: Part 1, Part 2. And for analysis of Cameroon’s team, based on those videos, check out this BigSoccer post.

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SOUTH AFRICA

Population:  48,810,000
GDP Per Capita: $11,000 (Rank: 105th)
FIFA Rank: 65 (March 2012)
Rank in CAF: 4
Team Nickname: Banyana Banyana (“banyana” means “the girls” in Nguni)
(Population and GDP information is from the CIA Factbook.)

Over the past ten years, Banyana Banyana has consistently hovered around the fourth spot in CAF, with its lowest ranking being fifth, but had been as high as third (December 2008 to March 2011).

How They Qualified: In the first round, South Africa defeated Zambia 5:1 on aggregate (2:1, 3:0). The second round matches versus Tunisia ended 1:1 in aggregate, with Banyana Banyana moving on after winning a penalty shoot-out 6:5. In the third round, South Africa dispatched Ethiopia 4:1 on aggregate (3:0, 1:1), with the second match falling on the same day as a group match in the All-Africa Games. This forced Banyana Banyana to send only a “B” team to the Games, while South Africa’s “A” team played to secure the side’s Olympic qualification.

Notable Players: Nompumelelo Nyandeni of Russia’s WFC Rossiyanka (profile page with photo) is the only player on the team who plays her professional club soccer outside of South Africa. Nyandeni appears to be a midfielder, though she has also been described as a forward.

At least two players from NCAA D1 teams are in the mix for a roster spot: Kylie-Ann Louw (Stephen F. Austin University, will be a senior this fall: profile page) and goalkeeper Roxanne Barker (Pepperdine University, will be a senior this fall: profile page).

Louw, a midfielder, played for WPSL’s FC Indiana in 2011 and was first capped by South Africa’s WNT as a sixteen year-old. She is a two-time Southland Conference Soccer Player of the Year (2010, 2011).

Last season, Barker had a 0.55 goals against average in 21 matches, as she helped Pepperdine secure their first West Coast Conference title since 2002. Barker has at least three international caps, including a 2:0 loss versus Scotland in this year’s Cyprus Cup (sport24.co.za). If Barker makes the Olympic squad, it will likely be as a back-up to the team’s primary ‘keeper, Thoko Mndaweni.

The most notable personality on the team is probably the multi-tatoo’ed defender Janine Van Wyk:

Further Viewing: South Africa participated in the 2012 Cyprus Cup. Here are highlights of their group stage matches and their placement match.

South Africa 1, South Korea 2.

South Africa 0, New Zealand 0.

South Africa 2, Northern Ireland 0.

South Africa 0, Scotland 2 (Placement match).

For more YouTube videos related to the South African WNT, check out footballqueens1′s YouTube channel.

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