In 2018, there will be more than one FIFA World Cup where the best national teams from around the world will match up for a shot at one of the most prestigious football awards in history. Everyone knows about the 2018 World Cup in Russia, which will kickoff in a few months; later in the year, the progressive South American nation of Uruguay will host the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, and three national teams from the Confederation of African Football will represent the Continent: Cameroon, Ghana and South Africa.
The tournament will take place from November 13 to December 1 at various stadiums in Uruguay. It should be noted that although Brazil is the spiritual home of football, Uruguay was the first nation to host the FIFA World Cup format in 1930, a year that coincided with the centennial anniversary of the country’s independence. A massive stadium was built in Montevideo for the tournament, which Uruguay managed to win for the honor of becoming the inaugural World Cup champion. For the young African girls who will play here in 2018, the honor cannot be overstated.
Participation of the three African teams in this 32-team tournament was sealed on February 19 with the surprising news that the Nigerian national team failed to qualify for the U-17 World Cup for the first time in history. The Nigerian Flamingos drew two matches against the Cameroonian Lionesses, but they were short of away goals. The Black Maidens of Ghana steamrolled over their Djibouti opponents by a margin of 19-0 in two matches. The South African Bantwana converted a home team advantage to secure a 5-1 victory against Morocco, but on the away game they had to park the bus early to prevent goals.
The schedule of the aforementioned national teams will be decided in late May when FIFA officials in Zürich convene to hold a draw and decide the first round of the U-17 Women’s World Cup. To ensure a global mix of national teams, there will be separate pots headlined by traditionally dominant squads such as North Korea, South Korea, Japan, France, Spain, and Germany. It is unlikely that Cameroon, Ghana or South Africa will end up in the same first-round group, and they will have to score enough points and goals to advance to the knockout stage, during which they could meet and be forced to win a single match to continue on to the quarterfinals.
World Cup football fans know that anything can happen at these international tournaments. African teams have not won in the U-17 Women’s World Cup, but girls’ football is a project still undergoing development in the Continent. The Black Maidens of Ghana have a reasonable shot at reaching the finals; after all, they earned third place in 2012 when the World Cup was hosted by Azerbaijan, which means that the national teams of South Africa and Cameroon will have to catch up.