Debutantes Morocco claimed their first ever victory at the Women’s World Cup with a 1-0 win over South Korea in their second Group H encounter on Sunday, all but confirming the Asian side’s exit.
Morocco are 55 rungs below South Korea in the women’s rankings, but the African side made an early breakthrough with their first ever World Cup goal from striker Ibtissam Jraidi.
In the sixth minute, Hanane Ait El Haj whipped in a cross from the right and Jraidi dived forward to make contact with a deft glancing header that went in at the far post.
“We are just so pleased our efforts have paid off. This victory is for Morocco and Arabs, it’s the fruit of our hard work,” Jraidi told reporters.
Park Eun-sun nearly levelled with a diving header of her own at the other end but the forward saw her effort go agonisingly wide of the post, much to the relief of Khadija Er-Rmichi in Morocco’s goal.
Er-Rmichi saw Germany find the net six times in their group opener, but she was hardly tested by the South Koreans, who failed to have a shot on target and struggled to make inroads into the final third as the Moroccan defence stood firm.
“There’s a sense of pride for us to pull this first World Cup win out of the bag,” coach Reynald Pedros said, dedicating the victory to the king of Morocco.
“We didn’t change our philosophy” after losing 6-0 to Germany, Pedros said. “The Korean team is not like the German team and we got off to a blinding start… We were efficient in the box, that was missing against Germany.”
Morocco defender Nouhaila Benzina, who became the first player to wear a headscarf at the Women’s World Cup, made crucial interventions, while she almost scored from a set-piece when she volleyed a snapshot over the bar.
She even took one for the team when she deliberately clipped Ji So-yun, who was racing through on goal on a counterattack with support, accepting a yellow card without protest.
‘WORST TWO PERFORMANCES’
But South Korea could not capitalise from the free kick, which hit the wall as coach Collin Bell stood on the touchline shaking his head in frustration.
South Korea’s Casey Phair nearly equalised late in the game, but the 16-year-old, who became the youngest player to take the field in Women’s World Cup history in their opener, fired wide to leave them bottom of the group.
“I can’t believe it, to be honest. We saved the worst two performances in my tenure for the World Cup. I didn’t recognise my own team,” said Bell, who took over in 2019 and guided the team to the final of the Asian Cup last year.
“The reality is we were not good enough in both games. Why that was, we have to analyse in detail. I’m not going to let my emotions take over now, and obviously we’re all very disappointed.
“The players are much better than they’ve shown in both matches and it really is almost unbelievable that we’ve performed like we have.”
Morocco are level with Germany and Colombia with three points ahead of their game later on Sunday. South Korea have zero points and will be eliminated if Germany avoid defeat.