Following a hundred percent record in the last four matches of the 2023 edition of the CAF Women’s Champions League – reminiscent of their route to the final last year in the same competition – Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies will face SC Casablanca as favourites to lift their second trophy.
The highly-anticipated clash against the North Africans will be played at Stade Amadou Gon Coulibaly in Korhogo, Cote d’Ivoire starting at 19h00 South African time.
This will be the second time the two sides meet in the competition, with the South Africans having a slight advantage following a 1-0 victory in the group stages through a Melinda Kgadiete goal.
It will be the first time that SC Casablanca feature in the CAF Women’s League final.
“It’s a bit of a tricky game that we’re going to play, we saw how they played in the first game and when they also played the team from Ghana (Ampem Darkoa), but I believe on this one we just need to rely more on our strength. We don’t have to worry about them but ourselves,” said Sundowns Ladies Head Coach, Jerry Tshabalala.
Road to the Final:
Sundowns Ladies managed four clean sheets – securing as many victories in the process.
They got off to a perfect start with a 2-0 win over JKT Queens of Tanzania, followed by a narrow 1-0 triumph over Moroccans SC Casablanca before completing the group stages with a dominant 3-0 success against the hosts, Athlético Abidjan. In the semi-final, perhaps their toughest match of the tournament – against a team that had defeated them before – the South Africans emerged 1-0 victors against defending champions AS FAR Rabat of Morocco to book their place in the final.
SUNDOWNS LADIES ROUTE TO THE FINAL:
|2 – 0||vs JKT Queens|
|1 – 0||vs SC Casablanca|
|3 – 0||vs Athlético Abidjan|
|1 – 0||AS FAR|
SC Casablanca on the other hand had a slow start as they were held to a 1-all draw by Athlético Abidjan, then went down 1-0 to Sundowns Ladies before resurrecting their campaign with a convincing 4-1 win over JKT Queens. In the semi-finals, they would need a penalty shootout (3-2) to progress to the final following a 2-all stalemate after extra time.
SC CASABLANCA ROUTE TO THE FINAL:
|1 – 1||vs Athlético Abidjan|
|0 – 1||vs Sundowns Ladies|
|4 – 1||vs JKT Queens|
|3 (2) – 2 (2)||vs Ampem Darkoa|
|FINAL||vs||vs Sundowns Ladies|
This will be Sundowns Ladies’ third final in a row – the only side with such an impeccable record.
They have played 14 games, won 12, lost one and drew one – the only blemish on their slate was inflicted by AS FAR on both occasions, with the defeat coming in the final – a 4-0 hammering, something that lingers at the back of their minds as they face another North African opposition.
“I remember the four goals, I think it’s all in the past, but we learnt the hard way, so we are going to be very cautious, we’re not going to be excited. We know they’re also going to bring their A game from the beginning, so we have to be very cautious in terms of how we approach the game as we don’t want to be disappointed again,” added Tshabalala.
The final against SC Casablanca comes hot on the heels of the Mamelodi Sundowns Men’s Team entering the record books by claiming the inaugural African Football League (AFL) title after defeating Morocco’s Wydad Casablanca.
But Tshabalala insists the two are separate.
“We hope that what they boys did back at home doesn’t put the girls under any massive pressure. We are here for our own mission, they were there for their own mission, which was accomplished, so it’s up to us as the ladies’ team to also accomplish our mission, which is to win the CAF Champions League again. We don’t want to put ourselves under pressure, but will just play the normal way, respect our opponents, and do our best in the field of play,” said Tshabalala.
While the two teams will be battling it out for the prestigious title of Queens of the Continent at club level, there is also a small matter of USD 400,000 (R7 337 268,00) for the winners, with the runners up walking away with USD 250,000 (R7 337 268,00) while the two losing semi-finalist will pocket USD 200,000 (R 3 668 634,00) each.
CAF WOMEN’S CHAMPIONS LEAGUE PRIZE MONEY
- USD 400,000 = R 7 337 268,00
- USD 250,000 = R 4 585 792,50
- USD 200,000 = R 3 668 634,00 – semi-finalist
- USD 200,000 = R 3 668 634,00 – semi-finalist
With their third successive appearance in the final, this will be the second time that Sundowns Ladies face a Moroccan side, after tackling AS FAR Rabat in 2022.
The South Africans, who won gold in the inaugural tournament in 2021 in Cairo, have a chance to add another CAF Women’s Champions League trophy to their collection or allow debutants SC Casablanca to become the third side to lift the title after AS FAR.
And this is the first time in the competition that the two teams that met in the group stages face off in the final.
Sundowns Ladies will pride themselves having won four games at the match venue for the final while their opponent have played two and yet to win.
Head to head: Sundowns Ladies vs SC Casablanca
Here’s what the players said:
Zanele Nhlapho – Sundowns Ladies Defender:
“This is a different ball game, it’s a different mindset. Yes, last year I got a red card which I have forgotten about – hence I say this year it’s different and we are in a different country, so I believe that we are here for a victory. You could see from the first game that we played we should character, we showed people what we are capable of doing in the field of play. I believe this is the time and we need to go back home with the trophy.”
Nonhlanhla Mthandi – Sundowns Ladies Midfielder:
“The spirit within the team is very high and the semi-final win further boosted our determination. The game was not easy, but we found a way to get the result we wanted. We are facing another tough team on Sunday and even though we beat them during the group stage, we expect a better fight from them this time around because everything is at stake here. It will not be a walkover and we are going out there to fight for the title. We try to protect our goalkeeper at all costs by defending and attacking as a team. We play for one another and ensure that we sacrifice for each other. This unity and commitment are what have helped us achieve a perfect defensive record in the competition.”
Karabo Dhlamini – Sundowns Ladies defender:
“As much as the team is excited, the focus is still there because we are not done yet. So, we can only celebrate once the job is done on Sunday and achieved our goal. Together, we are determined to leave it all on the pitch to achieve our objectives. It is hard to play against the same team twice, especially in a competition such as this. The girls know how important it is never to underestimate teams, so we are going out there to fight for the result like we have been doing. From our first meeting, we have learned quite a lot about our opponents and we are aiming to deliver our best yet again to secure the title.”
Boitumelo Rabale – Sundowns Ladies Forward:
“It was exciting to win the CAF Women’s Champions League with Sundowns two years ago, which was the first time for a player from Lesotho. It boosted my confidence to continue working hard and strive for more success with the club. We learnt the hard way when we lost in the final to AS FAR and we come back a better team having rectified our mistakes. It’s our dream to conquer the continent again and I have no doubt that we have what it takes to get our second star by the end of the tournament. It will be very good to add the second CAF Champions League medal to my trophy cabinet.”
Chaimaa Kriem – SC Casablanca:
“A final is not played, it is won. We have done a huge amount of work to get to this point. Of course, they are used to being at this level. We are the competitors. We are not going to play the final to show our participation. We are not going to come face to face with them. We want this trophy.”
By Matlhomola Morake