World Cup Qualifiers Update: African Women’s Championship Semifinals; Brazil Loses Player to ACL Tear; and U.S. Prepares for Playoff with Italy

The semifinals for the African Women’s Championship (AWC) are set for Thursday in South Africa. Nigeria takes on Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea plays South Africa. Ghana, which has played in the last three World Cups, did not advance after losing, 3-1, to Equatorial Guinea on Monday. South Africa, Cameroon, and Equatorial Guinea have never qualified for the World Cup, and Nigeria has never not qualified.The winners of Thursday’s semifinals qualify for the World Cup and advance to the AWC finals on Monday, Nov. 14, at Sinaba Stadium.

At the CONMEBOL qualifiers in Ecuador, favorites Brazil and Argentina are unbeaten. Brazil has qualified for every World Cup, Argentina the last two. But Chile, Paraguay, and Colombia look to be legitimate contenders. All five teams are unbeaten heading into Wednesday. That’s when Peru plays Chile and Bolivia faces Ecuador in Group A action. Both Peru and Bolivia must win Wednesday to avoid elimination. Chile can advance to the knockout round if its result is better than Ecuador’s result against Bolivia. Argentina and Chile are in first and second place, respectively, in Group A. Argentina is 3-0, while Chile is 2-0-1. Even though it is not playing, Argentina can advance to the knockout stage Wednesday if Peru beats Chile and Bolivia beats Ecuador.

In Group B, Venezuela was eliminated Tuesday after losing, 5-0, to Colombia. Yoreli Rincón, who scored the “Goal of the Tournament” at the U-20 Women’s World Cup in Germany this past summer, scored one of Colombia’s five goals. Rincón and Brazil’s Marta are second in Group B with two goals scored, one back of Christiane, who has scored three goals for Brazil. The Brazilians, the runners-up at the 2007 Women’s World Cup, are 2-0 after wins over Venezuela and Uruguay.

Leah Fortune (Our Game Magazine, July 2010) got her first cap with the Brazilian Women’s National Team but was taken away by ambulance after suffering a knee injury in the match against Uruguay. An MRI later confirmed a complete tear of her ACL and partial meniscus tear in her left knee. On her blog, Fortune said she will remain with the team in Ecuador throughout the qualifiers and then return to the U.S. for surgery on her knee.

Canada capped off its phenomenal run in the CONCACAF qualifiers by beating Mexico, 1-0, on Monday. The Canadians outscored their opponents, 17-0, winning their second Gold Cup and first since 1998, when coincidentally they beat Mexico, 1-0. Christine Sinclair scored on a penalty kick for Canada in Monday’s win.

The U.S., meanwhile, beat Costa Rica, 3-0, to advance to the CONCACAF/UEFA playoff against Italy. Abby Wambach scored two goals and Lauren Cheney scored one for a U.S. team that is headed to Stadio Euganeo in Padua, Italy on Nov. 20. The return leg is Nov. 27 at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois. That playoff will determine the 16th and final spot in the 2011 World Cup.

On Nov. 29, FIFA will hold the draw for the World Cup. U.S. coach Pia Sundhage called up Leslie Osborne to play in the playoff against Italy. Osborne, who plays for the Boston Breakers of the WPS, broke her collarbone against Sky Blue FC on Aug. 15. She recently was cleared to play, and this will be her first time back with the USWNT since 2008.

The following teams have already qualified for the 2011 Women’s World Cup: Germany (host nation), Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Sweden, England, Norway, France, Japan, North Korea, and Australia.