The Women’s World Cup 2023 has been full of surprises and drama, but none more so than the remarkable performance of the African teams. For the first time ever, two African teams have reached the knockout stage of the tournament, while the other two have also shown great resilience and skill.
Morocco, who qualified for their first World Cup after winning the 2022 Wafcon, stunned the world by topping Group H ahead of Germany, Colombia and Republic of Korea. The Atlas Lionesses secured their historic spot in the round of 16 with a 1-0 victory over Germany, thanks to a late goal by midfielder Ghizlane Chebbak. Chebbak, who plays for Spanish club Sevilla, became the first African player to score against Germany at any World Cup.
Zambia, who also made their World Cup debut after finishing as runners-up at Wafcon, impressed everyone with their attacking flair and spirit. The Copper Queens scored 10 goals in Group C, the most by any team in the group stage, with six of them coming from star striker Barbra Banda. Banda, who plays for Chinese club Shanghai Shengli, achieved a remarkable feat by scoring back-to-back hat-tricks against Costa Rica and Japan. She is currently the joint top scorer of the tournament with Australia’s Sam Kerr.
Nigeria, who have qualified for every World Cup since 1991, showed their experience and quality by finishing second in Group B behind hosts Australia. The Super Falcons were led by their captain and talisman Asisat Oshoala, who scored four goals in three games, including a brace against Canada. Oshoala, who plays for European champions Barcelona, is widely regarded as one of the best players in the world and has won six African Women’s Footballer of the Year awards.
South Africa, who qualified for their second World Cup after finishing third at Wafcon, gave a good account of themselves in Group D, despite failing to advance to the knockout stage. The Banyana Banyana held Japan to a 1-1 draw in their opening match, with midfielder Refiloe Jane scoring a stunning equalizer. Jane, who plays for Italian club AC Milan, was one of the standout performers for South Africa, along with goalkeeper Andile Dlamini and defender Janine van Wyk.
The knockout stage of the Women’s World Cup 2023 promises to be exciting and unpredictable, as the African teams will face some tough opponents. Morocco will take on France, the 2019 runners-up and one of the favorites to win the title. Zambia will face Spain, who reached the round of 16 for the first time in 2019 and have a talented squad. Nigeria will challenge Norway, who won the tournament in 1995 and have a prolific striker in Ada Hegerberg.
The African teams have already made history and inspired millions of fans across the continent and beyond. They have shown that they can compete with the best in the world and that they have nothing to fear. They have also demonstrated that African women’s football is on the rise and deserves more recognition and support.
Whatever happens in the knockout stage, the African teams have already won the hearts of many and have proven that they are a force to be reckoned with at the Women’s World Cup 2023.
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