Morocco Stun South Korea To Claim A Historic First-Ever Women's World Cup Win, And Defender Nouhaila Benzina Becomes The First Player To Wear a Hijab At a World Cup. {Watch Highlights}

Morocco secured their first ever goal and victory in their second FIFA Women’s World Cup match in history.

They are the first North African/ Maghreb/ Arab team to participate in the tournament, and the second African team after Nigeria Super Falcons to win a game at the ongoing tournament.

Having been thrashed 6-0 by Germany in their first ever Women's World Cup game, The Atlas Lionesses who are making their debut appearance in the tournament, took the field for the second time with a Group H match against South Korea at Coopers Stadium in Hindmarsh, South Australia on Sunday.

Morocco, one of the lowest-ranked teams at the tournament at 72nd in the world, were supposed underdogs against their counterpart 17th-ranked Koreans.

French coach Reynald Pedros saw his Morocco team take the lead after only six minutes in front of just over 13,000 fans in Adelaide.

There was only one shot on target in the first half, with forward Ibtissam Jraïdi scoring her country's first ever goal at the tournament with a diving header ahead of her marker into the far corner following Hanane Ait El Haj's cross from the right, in what ended up being the lone goal of the match.

South Korea, managed by Englishman Colin Bell, performed better in the second half, but could not find an equaliser.

The Koreans belatedly grew into the game towards the end of the first half, but like in their 2-0 opening defeat to Colombia, they lacked the finishing up front.

Going into the nervy final 10 minutes, South Korea piled on the pressure as they attempted to keep their World Cup hopes alive, having 10 attempts at goal, and none of which were on target, as coach Bell stood on the touchline shaking his head in frustration.

Bell threw on Casey Phair, the United States-born 16-year-old attacker, who became the youngest player to ever play in a FIFA Women's World Cup match when she came on in the 2-0 loss to Colombia.

The substitute Phair failed to hit the target, as she fired wide with a late chance for South Korea to draw level, much to the relief of Khadija Er-Rmichi in Morocco's goal having conceded six times in their group opener against Germany.


But Morocco defensive wall held on for a gritty win that left South Korea having lost both matches, facing an early exit from Group H with a game to spare.

That only goal by Jraidi, and hard-earned win, was enough to make history and give Morocco the first win and keep their hopes alive of advancing from Group H, and reaching the last 16 in Australia and New Zealand.

Speaking after the game, Morocco coach Reynald Pedros said, dedicating the victory to the king of Morocco: "There's a sense of pride for us to pull this first World Cup win out of the bag.

"We didn't change our philosophy after losing 6-0 to Germany. 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." 

Jraïdi who is now a national hero added: "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," 

Aside the win, there was another piece of history for Morocco when defender Nouhaila Benzina became the first player to wear a hijab (headscarf) at the Women’s World Cup.

A FIFA ban on playing in religious head coverings in its sanctioned games for "health and safety reasons" was overturned in 2014 after advocacy from activists, athletes and government and soccer officials, which paved the way for Benzina to make history.

Benzina even 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.

"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 South Korea coach 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."

It's nothing but disaster for South Korea who are without a goal in two matches are now effectively out of the 2023 World Cup with a game to spare.

Meanwhile, Morocco's tally of three points moves them level with Germany in second, with Colombia top of the Group H with six points following a 2-1 win over the Germans in Sydney. South Korea have zero points.

Morocco now focus on their final Group H game against group leaders Colombia in Perth on Thursday, when qualification for the knockout stages will be on the line.

While South Korea will play what is likely to be their final match of the tournament at the same time on Thursday when they take on Germany in Brisbane.


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