Women's rankings: Banyana's Thembi Kgatlana rewarded for toil at Eibar

Thembi Kgatlana was Eibar's brightest light this past season, and is one of a number of South African players at European clubs. Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Despite a general focus on Nigeria this month, top rank is reserved for Banyana Banyana's Thembi Kgatlana, whose form in recent months for Eibar has seen her hovering just below first place for some time.

After Asisat Oshoala and Ajara Nchout went off the boil slightly in terms of goals, Kgatlana's consistency could simply no longer be ignored.

But February's African Women's Power Rankings sees special recognition awarded to the Nigeria internationals who helped the Super Falcons soar to Turkish Women's Cup success.

Much of this can be attributed, in part, to chance. It was through no fault of the Zambian national team players that Barbra Banda and co. were denied the chance to compete in Turkey after the Copper Queens' late withdrawal from the tournament due to medical concerns.

WoSo fans will eagerly await the resumption of the various European and Asian leagues, not to mention the start of the NWSL season in April, as focus still remains firmly on Spain and Italy.

1. Thembi Kgatlana, Eibar

Kgatlana was on target against Sevilla and Tenerife in February, continuing her clinical form for ever-struggling Eibar in the Primera Iberdrola.

Eibar were comprehensively outplayed against Sevilla, but Kgatlana still managed a moment of magic. She played a lovely give-and-go off Maria Llompart before sweeping home in the 81st minute. After Kgatlana pulled the score back to 2-1, Sevilla scored again to clinch the match.

Mar Torrás set Kgatlana up for the opening goal of the match against Tenerife on Valentine's Day, but that too ended in heartbreak as Eibar were beaten 2-1.

Their other matches in February were a 0-0 draw with Deportivo de La Coruña and a 3-0 defeat to Barcelona. Nevertheless, despite Eibar's faltering form, Kgatlana keeps on scoring and now has nine goals in 19 Primera Iberdrola appearances this season.

2. Asisat Oshoala, Barcelona

Oshoala endured a rare six-game goal drought for club and country before banishing her demons with four goals in Nigeria's 9-0 drubbing of Equatorial Guinea.

The Barcelona forward captained her country at the Turkish Women's Cup and provided the assist for Halimatu Ayinde's match-winner against Uzbekistan.

She then scored two penalties in the first 13 minutes of the clash with Equatorial Guinea before sealing her hat-trick before the half-hour mark, latching onto Chidinma Okeke's long ball and finding the finish. Oshoala put the cherry on top late on, profiting from Ayinde's assist to score her fourth goal and Nigeria's ninth.

However, Oshoala was unable to put an end to her barren spell for Barcelona when she returned for the 3-0 thrashing of Eibar. She has now gone five matches without a goal at club level since bagging a brace in the 4-1 win over Real Madrid on 31 January.

3. Toni Payne, Sevilla

American-born Payne was introduced to the Nigeria national team at the Turkish Women's Cup and played an instrumental role for the Super Falcons. She scored the seventh goal of Nigeria's nine against Equatorial Guinea.

Payne was also a persistent thorn in Eibar's side in Sevilla's 3-1 win, scoring the second goal after being played in by Claudia Pina early in the second half.

At 25 years of age, Duke University grad Payne still has plenty of time to cement her star status for club and country.

4. Refiloe Jane, AC Milan

South Africa's Jane continued her rock solid run of form for the Rossonere as she played 81 minutes of Milan's 4-1 comeback win over San Marino, providing the assist for Giorgia Spinelli to score their first goal of the game.

Milan also progressed to the semi-finals of the Italian Women's Cup with a 0-0 second leg draw to Sassuolo, which saw them win on away goals. They then rounded the month up with a 6-1 drubbing of Pink Sport Bari.

5. Rita Chikwelu, Madrid CFF

Chikwelu has become a dependable presence in the middle of the park for Madrid and the Super Falcons, enjoying success with both during the month of February.

At club level, Chikwelu played all of the 1-1 draw with Real Sociedad and the 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao. Madrid have six wins and a draw in their last seven matches and Chikwelu has played an important role in their tremendous run of form.

She travelled with Nigeria to the Turkish Women's Cup, where she started all three matches en route of the Super Falcons' triumphant campaign. Her contributions deserve recognition as the midfielder continues to quietly go about her business.

6. Halimatu Ayinde, Eskilstuna United

Ayinde latched onto Oshoala's cross from the right to slot home a perfectly-placed half-volley in Nigeria's 1-0 win over Uzbekistan in the Turkish Women's Cup.

Ayinde's performances for the Super Falcons were valuable despite her having been out of action for Eskilstuna since the end of the last Damallsvenskan season in November. She is laying the foundations for what she hopes will be an impressive 2021 season.

A regular presence in midfield during the last Damallsvenskan campaign, Ayinde recently told Goal that she hopes to start adding more goals to her game. Certainly, she did not look a player short of confidence in Antalya.

7. Francisca Ordega, free agent

Eyebrows were raised over Ordega's selection for the Super Falcons in Turkey, given that she has not played club football in the last year. However, she justified her presence by proving that she can still be a key catalyst in her country's success.

Ordega was on fire in the 1-0 win over CSKA Moscow, teeing up Chinwendu Ihezuo for the only goal of the game and almost providing another assist for Payne mere minutes later. She and the Sevilla star appeared to strike up a solid rapport.

Ordega was stranded in Nigeria last season when the Chinese season kicked off and therefore missed out on playing for Shanghai. She will be eager for a speedy return to club football.


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8. Chinwendu Ihezuo, free agent

Ihezuo's winner for Nigeria against CSKA Moscow was enough to earn her a place in the top 10 this month.

Like Ordega, she was unable to return to China last season due to COVID-19, despite being contracted to Henan Jianye at the time.

The 23-year-old was nevertheless handed a chance to impress for the Super Falcons by Randy Waldrum and scored the first goal of his spell as head coach in the win over the Russian giants. She latched onto Ordega's cross to tap home.

9. Ajara Nchout, Atlético Madrid

Nchout scored for Atlético in their 2-2 draw with Granadilla Tenerife on 6 February, but did not add to her goal tally after that.

The experienced Cameroon forward started in a subsequent 1-0 defeat to Santa Teresa and a 4-1 drubbing of Valencia. She remains a central part of an Atléti team which currently sits third in the Primera Iberdrola behind a rampant Barcelona and Levante.

Nchout has had a largely positive start to life in Madrid, picking up the Spanish Super Cup in January, but she drops to ninth in our rankings after a less prolific February.

10. Rasheedat Ajibade, Atlético Madrid

Ajibade was on target for Atlético in their 4-1 win over Valencia after coming on as a late substitute for the more experienced Nchout.

After receiving the ball on the right-hand side of the box from Amanda Sampedro, Ajibade drilled home a fine first-time finish with her right foot. Earlier, Nchout had seen a goal ruled out due to a marginal offside decision.

At only 21 years of age, Ajibade continues to stake her claim as one to watch for the future.