Spain-based players dominate African women's power rankings for December

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December was a relatively quiet month for Africa's top women footballers, with many players enjoying either an off-season or the festive break.

Barcelona's Asisat Oshoala, the Nigeria star who made history this year by becoming the first African women's player to become a European champion, continued her recovery from injury.

However, there were still some players who stepped up and represented Africa superbly over the past month, with both established stars and a new generation of ambassadors enjoying their share of accomplishments.

1. Desire Oparanozie, Dijon

After a difficult year for the veteran Super Falcons striker, Oparanozie ended off on a high with back-to-back goals against Bordeaux and Guingamp for Dijon in the French Division 1 Féminine.

Oparanozie began the year amid a maelstrom as she was controversially excluded from the Nigeria squad for the Turkish Women's Cup amid reports of a strained relationship with Nigeria Football Federation [NFF] leadership. Even after getting back into the team, the team disappointed supporters with a poor display in a 4-2 defeat to Banyana Banyana.

However, Oparanozie has been regaining her form and has made a strong case for game time at the looming 2022 Africa Women's Cup of Nations [AWCON] in July. She now has five goals in nine league appearances this season for Dijon, who are in eighth place.

2. Ajara Nchout, Inter Milan

Since leaving Atlético Madrid for Inter Milan, Cameroon icon Ajara Nchout has been highly prolific. Goals in the 3-0 derby win over AC Milan and the 2-2 draw with Sassuolo took her total Serie A Women tally to five goals in seven matches this season.

Inter currently sit fourth in the league and are clearly in the race for second place, though runaway leaders Juventus are seemingly out of reach. In December, Inter also picked up a second successive Italian Women's Cup win for the campaign, beating San Marino 3-0.

The top two teams in the league will qualify for the first round of next season's UEFA Women's Champions League (UWCL).

3. Rasheedat Ajibade, Atlético Madrid

Ajibade ended a three-and-a-half month goalscoring drought for Atlético Madrid with two goals in the 6-1 drubbing of Real Betis.

Aged 22, the former Avaldsnes striker has found playing time hard to come by in a competitive Colchoneras squad, but she is making steady progress and now has three goals in three starts and a total of 273 minutes of Primera Iberdrola football this season.

4. Thembi Kgatlana, Atlético Madrid

Kgatlana also got on the scoresheet in the win over Real Betis after coming off the bench to replace Bárbara Latorre in the 75th minute as Ajibade came off for Ludmila.

Like Ajibade, Kgatlana has been used largely as an impact player. However, she has made her three starts and nine substitute appearances in the league count this season and has three goals to her name for her new club in the Primera Iberdrola.

Atlético are third in the league heading into the new year and on course to secure UWCL qualification.

5. Toni Payne, Sevilla

Toni Payne is another Super Falcons player who got on the scoresheet during December, netting for Sevilla against Granadilla Tenerife after capitalising on an assist from Rosa Otermin.

Payne came off the bench in the 46th minute for Klára Cahynová and scored in the 77th, but it was too little, too late, as the team suffered a 2-1 defeat.

Sevilla also picked up 0-0 draws with Real Betis, Atlético Madrid and Sporting Huelva in December. Currently, they lie 10th in the league.

6. Chiamaka Nnadozie, Paris FC

Rising star Nnadozie had a solid year in between the sticks for Paris FC in the Division 1 Féminine.

December began with a 0-0 draw to Montpellier before Paris were beaten 2-1 by giants Lyon. Nnadozie started and saw out both games as she continues to maintain her status as the undisputed first-choice shot-stopper.

Paris sit third in the table, trailing only leaders Lyon and city rivals Paris Saint-Germain, and are on course for a UWCL spot next season.

7. Evelyn Badu, Avaldsnes

Badu was Player of the Tournament in the CAF Women's Champions League, which saw her team, Ghana's Hasaacas Ladies, finish as runners-up to Mamelodi Sundowns in November.

December was equally productive for the striker as she scored the winner for Ghana U20 against Zambia in qualifying for the World Cup in Costa Rica in 2022.

Badu has also secured a career-changing move to Jon Arne Riise's Avaldsnes. At the age of 19, she looks set to become one of the most exciting African players abroad, although it will likely take some time for her to show her full potential.

8. Rita Chikwelu, Madrid CFF

Chikwelu remains a stable presence for Madrid despite a difficult December for the team. Madrid lost 2-1 to Real Sociedad with the Nigeria legend making a brief cameo in midfield.

She came on in the 18th minute in the next game as Madrid recovered with a 3-1 win over Valencia. However, they were unable to hold their own against two of the league's better sides in the next two matches as Chikwelu started in a 3-1 derby defeat to Real Madrid and a 7-0 drubbing at the hands of European champions Barcelona.

9. Vicky López, Madrid CFF

One positive for Madrid in December was the acceleration of the introduction of 15-year-old Nigeria-eligible starlet Vicky López to the first team.

Heading into December, the attacking midfielder had made only two substitute appearances in the Primera Iberdrola. However, she finally made her first start against Real Madrid, although she was back on the bench for another cameo against Barcelona.

López, who was born in Madrid to a Spanish father and Nigerian mother, will almost certainly be on the Super Falcons' radar in years to come. Whether or not they can convince her to choose Nigeria over Spain remains to be seen.

10. Christy Ucheibe, Benfica

Nigeria's Christy Ucheibe made substitute appearances for Benfica against Lyon and Bayern Munich in the UWCL in December, but both matches ended in heavy defeats (5-0 and 4-0 respectively).

Nevertheless, Benfica got off to a positive start in the Liga BPI playoffs, beating Albergaria 2-0. They remain a dominant force domestically, but the club has yet to show that they can compete with the European women's football elite.