Zambia and Morocco make history; qualify for first ever Women’s World Cup
Morocco and Zambia both qualified for their first ever Women’s World Cup on Wednesday after winning their respective quarterfinal matches at the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations.
The top four finishes at the tournament in Morocco will represent Africa at the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, where the field has been expanded to 32 teams.
Zambia were first to snatch a ticket as they beat Senegal 4-2 on penalties in Casablanca. The two sides drew 1-1 after extra time.
The Teranga Lionesses broke the deadlock just after the hour mark through Nguenar Ndiaye who was unmarked inside the box when she received the ball.
The Zambians drew level in the 70th minute after Avell Chitundu scored from close range before the both sides failed to find the target resulting in the shootout.
Zambia demonstrated their desire to win the match as coach Bruce Mwape made no changes to the impressive starting team that beat Togo in the last group game four days ago.
Senegal gaffer Mame Moussa Cissé made a couple of changes to the team that lost narrowly to host country Morocco in their last group game.
Mareme Babou, Anta Dembele, Ndeye Awa Diakhate and Nguenar Ndiaye were brought into the starting list for the Teranga Lionesses.
And Ndiaye responded to the faith shown in her by the coach when she opened the scoring in the match in the 61st minute when she evaded her markers to fire home.
The Cooper Queens responded moments later as Chitundu pounced on a mistake by Senegalese goalkeeper Tenning Sene as the latter failed to deal with a freekick by Lushomo Mweemba.
The Zambians came close to getting another goal when Xiomara Mapepa fluffed a glorious chance after being put on goal by the skipper Grace Chanda with goalkeeper Sene.producing an outstanding save.
The extra-time was closely contested with both teams failing to find the back of the net.
Zambia ended up winning the penalties with Siomala Mapepa, Misozi Zulu, Ireen Lungu and goalkeeper Hazel Natasha Nali scoring while on the Senegalese side, only Mama Diop, Haby Baldé managed to convert their attempts.
There was home delight for Morocco as they also booked a first ever place at the tournament after beating Botswana 2-1 in Rabat.
Backed by a passionate crowd at the Prince Moulay Abdallah Stadium, Morocco got off to a dream start with a goal after only three minutes.
Influential midfielder Fatima Tagnaout played in a shallow freekick that Sanaa Mssoudy provided a sliding touch to, steering the ball into the net to the delight of the supporters.
But the lead lasted all of seven minutes as Botswana swept in a freekick of their own with Keitumetse Dithebe hammering home a powerful left-footed effort from outside the area that proved too hot to handle for Morocco goalkeeper Khadija Er-Rmichi.
Botswana, competing at the first Wafcon, showed they were not overawed by the occasion although Morocco looked a little sharper before the break, with English-born striker Rosella Ayane sweeping an around-the-corner effort just wide one minutes before halftime.
Mssoudy had her 49th minute shot plucked out of the air by Botswana’s impressive goalkeeper Maitumelo Boseja while Morocco kept up the pressure as Sabah Seghir turned well to shoot but hit wide in the 54th minute.
Four minutes later, the hosts went back ahead as Tagnaout delivered a high ball to the back post to allow defender Yasmin Mrabet to score with a forceful downward header that crept past Boseja.
Mssoudy hit the woodwork with 15 minutes left with a shot from the edge of the area as Botswana looked to be wilting under the constant pressure from a Morocco side who looked much fitter.
It was Morocco’s fourth win at WAFCON, after a 100 per cent run in the group phase, and they now meet either Cameroon or Nigeria in the semifinal next week.