The Women’s World Cup has witnessed a historic moment as three African teams, Nigeria, South Africa, and Morocco, have reached the knockout levels for the primary time ever. Here’s a breakdown in their journeys:
South Africa: Banyana Banyana’s Dramatic Qualification
South Africa’s national team, Banyana Banyana, secured their place in the knockout stages in dramatic fashion. Needing a win to advance, they were locked at 2-2 with Italy in injury time. Thembi Kgatlana’s last-minute goal secured South Africa’s first-ever Women’s World Cup victory and a spot in the round of 16. Kgatlana’s impressive form, with goals and assists, has been remarkable considering she battled an Achilles injury and personal loss.
In the knockout stage, South Africa faces the Netherlands, a formidable opponent that was a finalist in 2019. This match promises to be a tough test for Banyana Banyana.
Nigeria: Super Falcons Overcome Challenges
Nigeria’s Super Falcons faced scoreless draws but showcased their resilience. They started with a penalty save against Canada, securing a 0-0 draw. A thrilling 3-2 victory against Australia, where Nigeria held on despite a late goal by the hosts, was a highlight. A goalless draw against Republic of Ireland helped Nigeria progress to the knockout stages, where they will face England. The Super Falcons hope to overcome a team with a perfect record and make history by beating European opposition for only the second time in their Women’s World Cup history.
Morocco: Surprising Achievements
Morocco’s women’s team faced challenges, including a 6-0 loss to Germany in their tournament debut. However, they made history with their first-ever goal in the World Cup against South Korea, securing a surprising 1-0 victory. Nouhaila Benzina also made history by becoming the first player to wear a hijab at a senior-level Women’s World Cup. Morocco’s win against Colombia secured their place in the knockout stages, where they will face France. The team aims to emulate the success of the Moroccan men’s team, which reached the semifinals in the 2022 men’s World Cup.
This remarkable achievement by African teams reflects the growing competitiveness and development of women’s soccer on the continent. As they enter the knockout stages, these teams have a chance to make even more history and inspire the next generation of women footballers in Africa.