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For Nora Hauptle, every game is a must-win for the Black Queens

Eight games, eight wins, 29 goals scored, zero goals conceded: Nora Hauptle has made a flying start to life as coach of Ghana’s Black Queens…

For Nora Hauptle, every game is a must-win for the Black Queens (Photo by Rahel Osterwalder)

Nora Hauptle closed Monday’s press conference by welcoming some surprise guests. She wasn’t aware they were there, but a French-Swiss family had come to see her and they were blended in the journalists.

Question after question, they watched on in awe as she delivered her answers in her usual compelling style. It was a group of five, and the youngest looked completely star-struck.

“It’s nice to meet you,” she would say to them after press officer Matilda Dimedo had made the introduction. She went on to take pictures with them before sharing some advice with the youngest kid, who seemed to be very interested in football.

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It’s a tiny detail but it’s beautiful watching Hauptle operate in her pomp. Whether it’s in the pressroom or on the training ground, she has this aura that endears her to people, including journalists and her players.

And it’s part of why she’s managed to transform the fortunes of Ghana’s women’s national team within nine months. Beyond her strong tactical nous, she’s a great communicator too. Eight wins from eight matches, 29 goals scored and zero conceded – it doesn’t come any better than that.

But as the Black Queens prepare to take on Benin in a 2024 Olympic Games second-leg qualifier in Accra, the Swiss tactician is leaving no stone unturned. Ghana won the first leg 3-0 following goals from Doris Boaduwaa and Gifty Assifuah (double).

Hauptle, however, does not believe the game is a done deal yet. Rather, she’s bent on making sure her side neutralises the threat posed by Benin’s talented players, who she’s already thoroughly scouted.

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“They have like seven, eight players playing abroad in France, Morocco,” says Hauptle, adding that “they have a good squad and they’re in a good shape.”

Hauptle’s tenure has been rosy so far. Not only have the Black Queens been playing swashbuckling football, but they’ve also been very ruthless in front of goal.

There’s also a renewed fighting spirit and character that is growing within this group. They train with a smile and play with a twinkle. This newfound mentality and approach to games, though, has been wrought by Hauptle, who has no room for complacency despite the team’s impressive winning streak.

For the 40-year-old, every game is a must-win and that piece of information has been passed down to every player. In her words, those who start must “maintain focus” while those who don’t must “never be happy with sitting on the bench.”

“It’s the second leg of the Olympic qualifiers and we strive to be in the third round in February, so we take this game with the full seriousness,” Hauptle alerts.

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“We analysed the first game, so we also set our training, tactic-wise, to find better solutions. We will show the answer on the pitch.”

When Benin’s coach Frederic Hounkponou addressed the media earlier, he said “Ghana was beatable” and that the 3-0 defeat his side suffered in the first leg was not a fair reflection of the game. In his view, “mistakes cost us but we were in the game before that.”

Hauptle admits the Black Queens made a slow start to the game in Cotonou, but was quick to add that they created several chances and would’ve been out of sight way earlier if they had been a bit more clinical in the final third.

Her immediate goal, however, is to ensure that her side keeps the momentum going by finishing the job on Tuesday against Benin. More than just qualification to the next round of the Olympic Games qualifiers, Hauptle is desperate to repay the support shown by the Ghanaian supporters since she took charge.

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The Swiss coach has taken notice of the large numbers that cheer the Black Queens on and highlighted the support the team enjoys even when they play away from home. This, she said, must be repaid with another impressive performance at the Accra Sports Stadium.

“To play in front of our home fans is special, so we also want to bring them joy on the pitch. The spectators have been travelling with us to a lot of countries,” says Hauptle. “They were in Benin, we appreciate it, and we’ll always try to give the energy back with our 150% performance.”

The Black Queens will host Benin in the second leg of the Olympic Games qualifiers on Tuesday, October 31, 2023.

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