Libya test for Ethiopia as hopefuls begin Ghana race

The journey to the Total Women’s Africa Cup of Nations Ghana 2018 starts on Wednesday with the First Round matches of the qualifiers.

Twenty (20) teams will be involved in action during the international break from 2-10 April for places at the ultimate round. The next eight days will witness the first and second leg matches of the First Round.

One of the teams looking to make an impact is Libya, due to face Ethiopia for a place at the next round. The first leg will take place on Wednesday, 4 April in 2018 in Cairo, due to the political instability in Libya. It is the second time Libya will be involved in the qualifiers and will be hoping to improve on their performance in the 2016 edition, where they suffered a 12-0 aggregate loss to Egypt at the First Round.

Lucy, as the Ethiopians are nicknamed, have not appeared in the last two editions of the biennial championships, and are on a mission to rewrite the books. Selam Zereaye, Head coach of the Ethiopia women’s U-17 team, has been elevated to the senior team for the double header against the Libyans.

Just before emplaning for Cairo, Selam told that being drawn against Libya appears an easy task “but it will be a tough journey”.

“Our target is simple and clear - to qualify for the final tournament in Ghana. We won’t underestimate our opponents. I think we need to keep in mind that there is no walkover in the qualifiers. Since it is a knockout, we will prepare for every match with full focus,” she said.

Selam, also the trainer for the women’s team of Ethiopian giants, Saint George, cites inadequate information about the Libyans is the only setback to their preparations.

“We actually don’t know much about Libya. We tried to get some information to no avail. Apart from that, we have been training harder to reach top shape. I have seen a lot of improvement in my squad as the days go by. The game against Libya will present a learning experience to rectify our weakness and build on our strength,” added Selam.

The Ethiopia trainer has summoned veteran attacking midfielder Birtukan Gebrekiristos to the squad in place of the injured Biruktawit Girma. Star striker Loza Abera and experienced forward Rehima Zerga are expected to lead the attack for Lucy.

Also, some players from the newly founded Ethiopian Women’s Second Division and the junior national sides managed to make the final cut.

Ethiopia host the return on Tuesday, 10 April 2018 in Addis Ababa with the winner over both legs facing either Senegal or Algeria for a place at the final tournament scheduled for 17 November to 1 December 2018 in the Ghanaian cities of Accra and Cape Coast. The top three teams will represent Africa at the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019.