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“We lost 6-0. We’re out, and they’re in,” an emotional Moroccan fan expressed, teary-eyed and in shock, directly at the camera.
The Moroccan team’s journey began tumultuously in this tournament, but they emerged victoriously against Colombia in Perth. Along with Germany’s inability to win against South Korea, this win propelled Morocco into the knockout stages.
The Moroccan players were ecstatic when they learned that the two-time champions were eliminated. There was an explosion of joy, with players jumping and some collapsing in tears, gazing upward.
This was the point when the Atlas Lionesses realized that they had created history once more.
Morocco has become the first Arab women’s team and the sole newcomers to reach the last 16 in the World Cup.
Headlines proclaimed: “The Writing of History in this Manner” and “One More Victory for Morocco.”
Social media contrasted jubilant images of Moroccan players with shocked German team members, another favorite ousted prematurely.
This World Cup has been a tournament filled with unprecedented achievements, surprises, and unexpected outcomes. Morocco’s Cinderella story ranks among the most memorable in this competition and perhaps in women’s football history.
“Nothing is impossible in football,” said defender Nouhaila Benzina, reflecting on the victory against Colombia.
“Al Hamdulillah – praise God,” she added. “We operated as a united team, attacking and defending as one. We filled Moroccans with pride and ourselves as well. Our work is not done.”
Their next ‘task’ is to play against France.
The Legacy of Qatar
This accomplishment follows the Moroccan men’s team’s milestone at Qatar 2022, where the Atlas Lions were the first Arab and African team to reach the semi-finals.
“The men initiated it, and the women are continuing it,” one supporter commented on Moroccan TV channel 2M.
Excitement around the women’s team mirrors that of the men. They have enjoyed domestic support since reaching the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations final in 2022 with a record home audience.
Some Australian chants echo those from Qatar: “This is just the beginning! More is on the way! More is coming!”
“As far as the [World Cup] results go, they were celebrated in a manner similar to the men. However, the public is still getting to know these women and their stories,” notes Moroccan sports journalist Amine el Amri.
The Atlas Lionesses are pioneers. Regardless of the result against France, they have already set history in motion.
The empowerment and joy of seeing a team from their region, including a player competing at one of the world’s premier stages in a hijab, can’t be overemphasized for young women across the Arab and Islamic world.
Benzina is the first to compete in the Women’s World Cup wearing a hijab.
“They might not have displayed the best football skills, but they have the best spirit. Their hearts were in every encounter with the opposition,” El Amri emphasizes.
“People were reminded of Qatar 2022 after losing 6-0 [against Germany] in the first match, and many felt like they were reliving that moment. The wait for the Germany-Korea game’s conclusion was akin to watching the penalty shootout against Spain in the men’s World Cup.”
The Return on Investment
Nouhaila Benzina is the first player to sport a hijab in the World Cup
The contemporary Moroccan football initiative dates back to 2009 when King Mohammed VI, a football enthusiast, inaugurated a football academy, followed by a training complex a decade later. The intention was to foster a new generation of players capable of playing at the elite level and promote women’s participation.
“The authorities recognized the societal significance of football as a means of social interaction, entertainment, and soft power. Substantial investment was made,” states El Amri.
This investment is bearing fruit, but the progress also attributes to the players’ hard work and talent.
The Moroccan women’s national team is now set to face the formidable French side, just like their male counterparts.
France knocked out the men in the semi-finals of Qatar 2022. Even the most loyal fans believe that the Atlas Lionesses’ chances against a seasoned and tactical French team are minimal.
Cultural and historical tensions add to the drama, as memories of a brutal colonial past always linger over matches between these nations, adding intensity.
French journalist Philippe Guibert termed Benzina’s hijab ‘backward,’ and France’s top administrative court refused to overturn the French Football Federation’s ban on hijabs.
“People on social media are eagerly anticipating this game due to the overall context, particularly since some French commentators criticized Nouhaila Benzina’s hijab,” El Amri mentions.
Their greatest hope, he claims, is for Benzina to net a winning goal against France.
Despite France’s undeniable skill and strength, El Amri concludes: “Sometimes, it’s about faith in your dreams. There’s perpetually an opportunity to advance further. That’s the Moroccan spirit.”
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about HistoricFeats
Q: How did Morocco make history in the Women’s World Cup 2023?
A: Morocco’s women’s team made history in the Women’s World Cup 2023 by becoming the first Arab women’s team and the only debutantes to reach the last 16 of the tournament.
Q: How did the team react to their advancement to the knockout rounds?
A: When they learned that Germany, a two-time champion, was eliminated, the Moroccan team huddled in joy. Players were jumping and shedding tears of happiness, realizing their historic achievement.
Q: What significance does the team’s representation hold for the Arab and Islamic world?
A: The representation of the Moroccan team, including a hijab-wearing player like Nouhaila Benzina, holds immense significance for young women in the Arab and Islamic world. It empowers and brings joy to see a team from their region competing on the global stage.
Q: What has been the investment behind the growth of Moroccan football?
A: The growth of Moroccan football, both in men’s and women’s teams, can be attributed to significant investment by the authorities. Starting with a football academy in 2009 and a training complex later, the goal was to nurture talent and promote women’s participation in football.
Q: What is the next challenge for the Moroccan women’s team?
A: The next challenge for the Moroccan women’s team is to face France in the Women’s World Cup. While France is a formidable opponent, the Moroccan spirit remains strong, and the team believes in their dreams of advancing further.
Q: What makes the Moroccan women’s team’s story exceptional in the Women’s World Cup 2023?
A: The Moroccan women’s team’s story is exceptional due to their underdog status, overcoming adversity, and making history in a tournament filled with surprises and upsets. Their achievements have resonated with football fans worldwide.