Morocco and Zambia both qualified for the Women’s World Cup for the first time when winning their Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon) quarter-finals on Wednesday.
Not only the first North African country to host a Wafcon, Morocco’s 2-1 victory against Botswana makes them the first country from the region to qualify for the Women’s World Cup.
Earlier, goalkeeper Hazel Nali was the hero for Zambia in their penalty shootout win against Senegal, after extra time had finished 1-1 in Casablanca.
All four Wafcon semi-finalists automatically qualify for the 32-team tournament in Australia and New Zealand in 2023.
Botswana and Senegal have a final chance to join their conquerors in the tournament when both play in repechage ties at the weekend to decide Africa’s two teams to contest an intercontinental play-off next year.
Impressing again with their flowing football, Morocco earned their fourth win in as many games in the capital Rabat to see off a Botswana side who fought to the end.
Livewire Sanaa Mssoudy opened the scoring three minutes in when smartly flicking home Fatima Tagnaout’s free-kick, but Botswana hit back just four minutes as Keitumetse Dithebe curled home a stunning free-kick.
Just before the hour, the irrepressible Tagnaout delivered again as her cross was headed home by Yasmin Mrabet for a goal greeted by flares in the packed-out stands.
Morocco has invested hugely in women’s football in recent years and reaching the Women’s World Cup has been a stated aim.
Zambia edge tight contest
A year after their Olympic debut, Zambia have reached their first Women’s World Cup, which they first tried to do in the mid-1990s.
Their qualification is all the more impressive given the absence of star striker Barbra Banda, who has missed the tournament over ‘gender eligibility’ issues.
Just seconds after keeping out Ndiaye Diakhate’s spot-kick, Nali stepped up herself to clinch the shootout 4-2 and send Zambia to their first Wafcon semi-final.
After a tight opening between sides playing a Wafcon knockout tie for the first time, Senegal took the lead when Nguenar Ndiaye ran in unmarked to head home skipper Mbayang Sow’s deep free-kick just after the hour.
Just as the Senegalese looked to be cruising, Zambia were handed a gift when goalkeeper Tenning Sene dropped Lushomo Mweemba’s long-range free-kick under no pressure to present Avell Chitundu with a sitter after 70 minutes.
Extra time was lively late on as Senegal’s Mama Diop had an opening in the final moments, before Zambia went close through Ochumba Lubandji’s fine strike and the impressive Mweemba’s header against the crossbar.
In the shootout, Senegal missed their first kick as Korka Fall shot wide before Sene thought she had made amends when denying Mweemba, only for Nali to take them into Monday’s semi-final against either South Africa or Tunisia.
The latter two meet in Thursday’s second quarter-final, with nine-time and defending champions Nigeria facing three-time runners-up Cameroon beforehand.