WOMEN'S WORLD CUP 2023
First-ever Hijabi at World Cup, Nouhaila Benzina, secures first win for Morocco
Morocco is making headlines for all the right reasons. The North Africans claimed their first-ever Women’s World Cup victory, while demonstrating inclusivity and diversity
In a surprising turn of events, Morocco secured their first-ever victory at the Women’s World Cup by defeating South Korea on Sunday. Striker Ibtissam Jraidi’s goal in the sixth minute proved to be the decisive moment, leading Morocco to a 1-0 win and making them the third debutant team to win a game in the tournament.
The match was marked by significant landmarks, with defender Nouhaila Benzina making history as the first player to wear a hijab at a senior-level Women’s World Cup. Benzina’s inclusion in the starting lineup showcased her remarkable talent, and she almost scored a goal during the match, narrowly missing with a volley over the crossbar.
Jraidi’s early header not only secured the victory but also marked Morocco’s first-ever goal in the Women’s World Cup, adding to the historic nature of the match.
“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.
Benzina drives inclusivity and diversity
Benzina, who plays professionally for AS FAR in Morocco, is accustomed to wearing the hijab in domestic competitions. However, wearing it on the global stage was not allowed for some time due to FIFA’s health and safety regulations. Fortunately, the ban was lifted in 2014, allowing Muslim players to wear headscarves, and Benzina’s appearance at the tournament showcased the progress made in inclusivity and diversity in the sport.
The standout performance of the 25-year-old included crucial interventions on defense, and she even took a yellow card to stop a counterattack, demonstrating her dedication to the team’s success. Benzina’s presence and achievements on the field made a significant impact, representing a landmark moment in women’s football at the international level.
After suffering a heavy 6-0 loss to Germany in their opening game, the Moroccan team showed significant improvement in their match against South Korea in Adelaide. Despite being ranked 55 places below South Korea in the world rankings, the debutants managed to take an early lead, surprising everyone with their performance. Morocco displayed resilience and determination, holding on to secure a memorable 1-0 victory.
The match was closely contested, and South Korea had a chance to level the score late in the game when teenager Casey Phair had an opportunity from close range. However, she, unfortunately, shot wide, and Morocco held firm to preserve their lead and claim the win.
With this victory, Morocco is now level with Germany and Colombia, sitting three points ahead of their upcoming match later on Sunday. On the other hand, South Korea finds itself with zero points and faces the possibility of elimination from the competition. They will be officially eliminated if Germany manages to avoid defeat against Colombia in the later game on Sunday. The outcome of that match will determine South Korea’s fate in the tournament.