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Saturday, September 30, 2023

Mission accomplished for WAFCON hosts Morocco after quarterfinal victory over Botswana sees Atlas Lionesses through to first World Cup

2022 Africa Women Cup of Nations hosts Morocco qualified for their first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup after taking down Botswana 2-1 on Wednesday in the quarterfinals. Sanaâ Mssoudy scored her first goal of the competition and Yasmin Mrabet headed in the winning goal for the Atlas Lionesses, who advance to face the winner of Thursday’s matchup between Nigeria and Cameroon in the semifinals. Botswana will face the loser of the Nigeria-Cameroon clash in the repechage round, where an opportunity still remains to qualify for Australia/New Zealand 2023 through the intercontinental playoff.

The home supporters were in full voice to push Morocco on to a World Cup slot and it seemed like the Atlas Lionesses would reach their goal comfortably when they took the lead soon after kick off. In the 3rd minute a set piece on the right flank led to an excellent inswinging service from the gifted left foot of Fatima Tagnaout. Mssoudy slid in and got the necessary touch on the ball to send it by Botswana goalkeeper Maitumelo Bosija.

Botswana did brilliantly to respond and stunned the home crowd into silence, however, with an excellent set piece of their own. Only a few minutes after Mssoudy’s opener, a free kick opportunity was presented to the Zebras’ own left-footed specialist and Keitumetse Dithebe obliged with a curling effort that was too much to handle for Morocco keeper Khadija Er-Rmichi as it soared past at her near post.

Chances were few and far between for Botswana from then on and Bosija stayed busy in the Zebras goal. Tottenham Hotspur forward Rosella Ayane looked particularly dangerous for Morocco, turning and volleying a cross just off target in the 44th minute before Bosija plucked a long distance effort from Mssoudy soon after halftime.

The hosts would find their breakthrough and retake the lead close to the hour mark. A deep lofted cross from the right wing by the dangerous left foot of Tagnaout picked out Mrabet at the far post and the Madrid-born midfielder headed in past a helpless Bosija to put Morocco in the lead. Botswana made a last charge and found a half chance in the 85th minute but after star forward Refilwe Tholakele latched onto a ball over the top her lofted shot off the outside of her foot caused little trouble for Er-Rmichi and Morocco were off to celebrate when the final whistle sounded in Rabat.

Highlights are below.