2023 WOMEN WORLD CUP
The first time three African countries have reached World Cup knockout stage
Nigeria, South Africa, and debutants Morocco advance to the knockout round in Australia and New Zealand, marking the first time three African teams reach the last 16.
Once again, African teams have surpassed expectations by advancing beyond the 2023 Women’s World Cup group stages, defying predictions that suggested otherwise. This remarkable achievement echoes a similar scenario during the men’s tournament in Qatar 2022, where African teams also exceeded expectations.
Nigeria, South Africa, and debutants Morocco have all secured spots in the tournament’s knockout round in Australia and New Zealand. This historic achievement marks the first time three African teams have reached the last 16 stages at a World Cup.
While Zambia missed the chance to make it a perfect record for African nations, finishing third in Group C behind strong contenders Japan and Spain, they left a lasting impression. As the lowest-ranked team in the tournament (77th), Zambia exited gracefully but not before claiming their first-ever Women’s World Cup win with an impressive 3-1 victory over Costa Rica.
Now, the remaining three African teams hold on to their dreams of matching or possibly surpassing Morocco’s accomplishment of reaching the semifinals at Qatar 2022. The continent continues to show its growing strength and presence in international football, both in the men’s and women’s game.
South Africa, Nigeria, Morocco showing a strong presence at WWC
In a thrilling and historic moment, South Africa secured their first-ever Women’s World Cup victory and qualified for the knockout stages. They had a nail-biting journey, needing a win against Italy to advance from the group stage. Despite previous heartbreaks in the tournament, including a last-minute defeat to Sweden and surrendering a two-goal lead against Argentina, Thembi Kgatlana’s brilliant intervention, capitalizing on Hildah Magaia’s assist, led to a decisive goal that secured their spot in the last 16 of Group G.
Nigeria’s journey to this World Cup’s last 16 was nothing but exciting. They impressed with a 0-0 draw against Canada, thanks to a crucial penalty save by goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie. In a thrilling game against co-hosts Australia, Nigeria secured a 3-2 victory, with Uchenna Kanu, Osinachi Ohale, and Asisat Oshoala scoring crucial goals. A goalless draw against Ireland was enough to see them through to the knockout stage, although they surrendered the top spot to Australia.
Instead of facing Denmark in the next round, Nigeria will now take on reigning European champion and new favorites, England. To advance further, they’ll need to defeat a team with a perfect record in the tournament and overcome their historical struggles against European sides. Nigeria’s midfield star, Christy Ucheibe, will be essential in maintaining her stellar defensive form against England’s formidable attacking talents.
Morocco’s World Cup debut was daunting, suffering a heavy 6-0 defeat against Germany in Group H. However, they bounced back in their second match against South Korea, securing a historic 1-0 victory with Ibtissam Jraidi’s goal, marking their first-ever goal in the tournament. Another milestone was achieved as Nouhaila Benzina became the first player to wear a hijab at a senior-level Women’s World Cup.
In their final group match, Morocco faced the challenge of surpassing Germany’s result against Colombia, who had been performing well with two wins. Once again, the North Africans defied expectations and claimed a remarkable 1-0 win, thanks to Anissa Lahmari’s goal just before half-time. The team gathered anxiously around mobile phones to learn that South Korea had held Germany to a draw, leading to jubilation in Perth as Morocco celebrated a historic achievement and a chance to face France in the next round. They hope to avenge the men’s team, whose semifinal defeat to France in the previous World Cup in Qatar marked the best-ever run by an African team in the tournament.