Morocco, Zambia make history with World Cup qualification
- Morocco beat Botswana 2-1 to qualify
- Zambia had to overcome Senegal 4-2 on penalties
- Africa will have four representatives at the World Cup next year
Morocco and Zambia made history as they qualified for the FIFA Women’s World Cup for the first time ever after both progressed to the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON) semis in Morocco.
Zambia beat Senegal 4-2 on post-match penalties after a 1-1 draw in regulation time while hosts Morocco saw off Botswana 2-1.
With the expanded World Cup next year, Africa will have four teams and this year’s Women’s Cup of Nations is also used as a qualification tournament.
Hosts Morocco ensured they continued with their unbeaten run in the competition under UEFA Women’s Champions League winning coach Reynald Pedros and picked perhaps the most important victory.
“I am happy with the way that the team played today. We achieved our goal to go to the World Cup. We have played against different opponents that play different styles and this means that we have to find solutions. We always prepare for this and today, that went well. We keep the rhythm and grow into the game and that helps us going forward,” said the French tactician.
Mrabet scores winning goal
Yasmin Katie Mrabet scored the winning goal for the Atlas Lionesses in the second half, to hand them a place in the last four and reserve a ticket on the plane to Australia and New Zealand next year.
Sanaa Mssoudy had opened the scoring for the hosts in the third minute before Botswana struck back through Keitumetse Dithebe four minutes later.
The home side started well and it took them just three minutes to get on the scoresheet, Mssoudy scoring with a connecting volley after she ran behind the defense to pick out a cross from Fatima Tagnaout.
But, the Botswana girls silenced the stadium with the equalizer just four minutes later, Dithebe restoring parity with a stunning left footed freekick from range.
But the home side was pushed on by their fans and they kept attacking, seeking to get back into the lead.
More chances in second half
In the second half they had more chances with Mssoudy’s well curled in left footer with a shot from the edge of the box saved by the keeper early on. Mssoudy’s lecft foot would whip in the cross for what would be the winner.
She curled in one to the backpost from the right and Mrabet arrived unmarked to thump in a header beyond the keeper. The Atlas Lionesses held on for the win, and a historic place in the World Cup.
Meanwhile, Zambia who played at last year’s Olympic Games for the first time ever wrote another chapter in their history, progressing to the Women’s World Cup also for the first time.
The Copper Queens had to endure penalties before beating Senegal 4-2 after a 1-1 stalemate in regulation time. They had to come from down, Avell Chitundu scoring in the 70th minute to cancel out Ndiaye Nguenar’s opener.
Senegal break the deadlock
The lanky Ndiaye broke the deadlock in the 61st minute with a towering header off a freekick from the right. Senegal would draw level nine minutes later also from a set piece, but it came through some help from the Senegalese keeper.
The custodian let a seemingly harmless freekick from deep in Senegal’s half slip through her grasp and Chitundu raced through to nod in a header from a yard out.
Grace Chanda should have won it for Zambia late on from a one-on-one chance, but her effort was blocked by the keeper.
On penalties, Chanda scored Zambia’s first with Korka Fall striking hers wide. Misozi Zulu and Ireen Zulu scored the next two for Zambia with Senegal responding via Mama Diop and Haby Balde. Lushomo Mweemba missed Zambia’s next to give Senegal a lifeline.
However, they could not take advantage as star striker Awa Diakhate saw her penalty missed.
Goalkeeper Nali Hawa stepped up for Zambia’s fifth and she made no mistake, scoring to give the Copper Queens victory.