Morocco's women's national football team will play in the final of the Women's Africa Cup of Nations (CAN 2022) after a 5-4 penalty shootout victory over Nigeria following a 1-1 draw after normal time and extra time.
Morocco, who are hosting the trophy this year, have thus qualified for the final of the continental championship for the first time, which is a real milestone for the Moroccan women's national team after they qualified for the semi-finals, a fact that also gave them the right to play for the first time in the World Cup to be played in Australia and New Zealand from 20 July to 20 August 2023.
The final of the Women's Africa Cup of Nations will take place on 23 July in Rabat and will pit Morocco against South Africa, who eliminated Zambia with a 1-0 win. The Moroccan players will once again have the home crowd on their side in an eagerly awaited sporting event that will be highly anticipated, especially considering that the semi-final match against Nigeria was attended by more than 45,000 spectators.
It was a huge surprise because Nigeria and South Africa were expected to play in the final as the Nigerians have won 11 of the 13 Africa Cup of Nations women's finals since the tournament was first staged in 1991. Nigeria had only been eliminated twice before in the competition, in 2008 to Equatorial Guinea, who went on to win the tournament that year, and in 2012 to South Africa. Morocco thus became only the third team in history to knock Nigeria out of the Africa Cup of Nations at women's level.
After a fairly even first half at the Prince Moulay Abdellah stadium in Rabat, the game became unbalanced in the second half, especially after two Nigerian players were sent off. The start of the second half was a fast-paced affair and it was at this stage that midfielder Halimatu Ayinde was sent off for a hard tackle on striker Rosella Ayane. In the 71st minute, another sending off also came, this time of wide player Rasheedat Ajibade for another borderline action on defender Zineb Redouani. All of these actions were reviewed by the video referee and in this case they went in Morocco's favour.
Nigeria had taken the lead in the 62nd minute thanks to an own goal by Yassin Mrabet, but they took the blow and Morocco had more control thanks to their superiority on the pitch. The Atlas Lionesses equalised quickly, in the 66th minute, thanks to a goal from winger Sanaa Mssoudy, who took advantage of a bad save by goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie, after a very good combination on the pitch by the North African players.
The Green Eagles endured a tough stretch, even after losing their captain Onome Ebi to injury, but were able to hold out for normal time and then extra time with the score at 1-1.
In the final kicks from the penalty spot, the Moroccan players took all five of their kicks without a miss, with Nigeria's Ifeoma Onumonu ultimately missing. This condemned Nigeria to the next match for third and fourth place against Zambia.
A historic match awaits Morocco's women's team in Rabat as they look to beat the South Africans to win the African Nations Cup for the first time. The show is set to be a great spectacle and a large crowd is expected, as the Moroccan players' exploits are arousing great interest in the Alawi kingdom and the African and world football scene.