A header by centre-back Katie Yasmin Mrabet in the 70th Minute proved to be the goal that sent hosts Morocco into the semi-final of the WAFCON 2022 and to the 2023 FIFA WWC in Australia/New Zealand.
In front of packed Stade Prince Moulay Abdallah here in Rabat, the hosts raced into an early lead through the consistently excellent Msoudy Sanaa. The winger reacting first to a flighted free-kick to turn it home inside the first 3 minutes.
Botswana reacted gamely and were level through a free-kick of their own when Keitumetse Dithebe bent in a vicious effort from out on the right flank into the top corner. The goal silenced the typically loud home crowd that were expecting a rout after Sanaa’s opener. Scores remained level at halftime .
The pattern of the game did not change at the start of the 2nd half with Morocco prompting and probing with Sanaa and her skipper Ghizlane Chebbak at the heart of every good move. They met a very obdurate backline of Botswana who were not ready to give anything away.
And so it was until that intervention by Mrabet to head home following a cross that was poorly dealt with by the Southern African country. They held out till full time, to the joy of the near capacity crowd.
Former France International and coach of Morocco Reynald Pedros paid tribute to his players and especially the fans who stood with the team “We are involved in a sport where we can not be perfect so I understand mistakes can be made, but my players stood firm today and tried very hard to work on the things we had planned. I am also very grateful to the crowed who helped us over the line in the end.”
Morocco will now face the winner of the crunch quarter-final in Casablanca between Nigeria and Cameroon. Pedros is not fussed on who his team will meet, “Both countries are very strong and so it does not matter who wins we will have a very tough match. We will prepare and make sure we are ready.”
Earlier in the evening in Casablanca, Zambia also qualified for their first World Cup and a place in the WAFCON 2022 semi-final with a 4-2 penalty shoot-out win over Senegal. Match had ended 1-1 aet.
Calvin Emeka Onwuka in Rabat Morocco