Morocco’s presence in the Women’s World Cup has already produced a series of notable moments. It will be the first North African team to qualify and the first Arab-majority team to qualify. And against Germany on Monday, Morocco could become the first team to feature a hijab-wearing player.
The player, defender Nuhaira Benzina, has worn a Muslim scarf in matches for many years. And if she substitutes against Germany and Morocco, where she wasn’t in the starting line-up, she will be the first player to wear it at a World Cup.
A decade ago, Arab countries led by Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein, president of the Jordan Football Federation, successfully fought the hijab ban in football. Arab officials and players argued that banning the scarf would limit the participation of young girls and women in football, especially in most Arab countries where the hijab is a common feature of public life.
Football governing body FIFA eventually lifted the hijab ban, which was in place on the grounds that covering the head put players at risk of injury, but France recently moved to reinstate the ban.
France’s Supreme Court in June upheld the French Football Federation’s ban on the hijab, saying the scarf was against France’s secular traditions. Several Moroccan players were born and raised in France. Benzina plays for the Moroccan club team.
But while hijab-wearing players may be celebratory for Muslim players, Morocco’s presence led to an uncomfortable moment at the team’s pre-match press conference on Sunday.
Nearly half an hour into questioning Morocco’s French coach Reinaldo Pedros and team captain Ghizran Chebak, a BBC reporter was handed the microphone.
“Having gay relationships is illegal in Morocco,” the reporter began. “Are there gay players in your team? What is life like in Morocco for them?”
Pedros widened his eyes as the question was translated into French on his headphones. Chebak narrowed his eyes at first, then closed them briefly. FIFA officials in charge of the press conference then intervened before the coaches and players could answer.
“I’m sorry, but this is a very political question,” the official said, begging reporters at the venue to “only ask questions related to football.”
The BBC journalists fought back, saying there was nothing political in Chebak’s question and pleading with Chebak to be allowed to answer. “It’s not about politics. It’s about people,” he said before passing the microphone to another reporter in the room. Mr. Chebak seemed completely disbelieving the words translated into Arabic by the translation device and was unwilling to reply.
The episode reflected the intense scrutiny of female athletes at the tournament, which has drawn societal issues, including the rights of people in the LGBTQ community. Some of the tournament’s most prominent players are gay, including U.S. Megan Rapinoe, and Canada’s roster also includes a transgender Quinn.
Like Chebak, Pedros did not respond to questions. However, the fact that the question was asked was met with frustration by some of the Moroccan press who were present at the session at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, with some critics on social media accusing Moroccan players of endangering themselves simply by asking the question.
Australia have been tight-lipped about star striker Sam Kerr’s situation this week, but team officials were ruled out of the first two World Cup games last week. calf injury.
Australian officials said at the time that Kerr’s injury would be reassessed after Thursday’s group stage second leg, in which they were hopeful of her return to the field.
But one of Kerr’s teammates, 21-year-old midfielder Kyra Cooney-Cross, caused a stir on Monday when he told reporters at camp in Australia that Kerr was suffering from a torn calf. This is a far more serious injury that will almost certainly keep Kerr out of the tournament.
“It’s a shame Sam tore his calf before the game,” Cooneycross told reporters. “But as a team, I think we’re just focused on Nigeria. Sam is doing his part to get back as soon as possible, but that’s also important.”
Team officials immediately tried to retract Cooney Cross’s statement. A team spokesperson said in a text message that Cooney Cross made a gaffe using “inaccurate language for a young player” and “colloquial rather than medical terms”. In a separate message, federation officials said the allegation that Kerr had a torn muscle was “inaccurate” and said the original diagnosis – a mild calf strain – was still affected.
Australia beat Ireland 1-0 in their opening game, but Kerr’s loss could be devastating to their hopes of reaching the top of the competition at home.
Germany will begin their World Cup campaign on Monday with the same goal as always: a clean sweep. Germany, who have won twice and failed to reach at least the quarter-finals, drew in a favorable group with Morocco, Colombia and South Korea this year. So they have a good chance of making it to the Top 8 again, but the goal is set even higher.
Brazil is another top competitor entering the field. The team is better known for his one player, Marta, than for the strength of its members as a whole. But Brazil, under former US manager Pia Sundage, could face a tougher game than usual.
But it was Italy, a transitional team, who came first, and a side with two teenagers beat Argentina 1-0 on Monday.
Italy vs Argentina
Italy reached the quarter-finals of the last World Cup, performing solidly after being out of the competition for 20 years. But after failing to reach the knockout stages of last year’s European Championship, the team began a generational shift, with manager Milena Bertolini laying off many veterans to make way for new talent.
Julia Dragoni, 16-year-old midfielder Some call him Little Messi, He just made his debut in a goalless draw against Morocco earlier this month. However, she did start against Argentina and was part of a line-up that also featured 18-year-old forward Chiara Beccari.
Italy came off the bench and scored their fourth World Cup goal, Cristiana Girelli’s header to beat Argentina.
Goal at the FIFA Women’s World Cup for the 4th time in her career!
An absolute class finish by Italy’s top goalscorer Cristiana Girelli 🇮🇹 pic.twitter.com/ytI6m5FfvU
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 24, 2023
Dragoni could be the face of the Italian team for the next decade. “She has no expectations,” she said this week. “I’m too young and I’m here to learn and gain experience, so I can’t do that.”
Argentina have never made it past the group stage, failed to win a World Cup and have scored just five goals in three tournaments. However, Argentina have won four of their five friendly matches ahead of the tournament.
Germany v Morocco
Germany won the World Cup in 2003 and 2007, has eight European Championships and a Rio 2016 Olympic gold medal in their trophy case. But the last few months have been rocky, with losses to England in last year’s European Championship final, defeats to Brazil and Zambia, and a narrow win over Vietnam in June’s friendly.
Morocco, by contrast, is one of eight newcomers. With that qualification, the team gained new fans in their home country. But reaching tournaments is another thing. Beating Germany in it is something else entirely.
brazil vs panama
all eyes are in malta. The Brazilian legend is in his sixth World Cup at the age of 37 and hopes to win the title he has yet to win. Marta is considered by many to be the greatest player in the history of the game, but he often carries the weight of the national team alone.
The last time a Brazilian came close to winning the tournament was almost a generation ago, when they lost to Germany in the 2007 final. While this year’s team isn’t considered as strong as previous teams, Sundage has a respected coach with an illustrious resume.
Brazil’s first opponent is Panama, another World Cup debutant and the last country to qualify for the tournament. Panama has its own Maltese. Marta Cox is a 26-year-old midfielder who scored from a bicycle kick in Panama’s World Cup qualifier against Paraguay.
Colombia vs South Korea
Colombia had a good run in the Copa America Championship, beating Argentina in the semi-finals but losing 1-0 to Brazil in the final. These results suggest that they are ready to fight on the world stage.But that competitiveness may have gone too far in the recent friendly against Ireland: that game Canceled after 20 minutes for what the Irish called the Colombian’s “overly physical” play. Columbia rejected that characterization and defended its style. The Irish simply “preferred not to continue playing”.
Colombia will face 2022 Asian Cup runners-up South Korea. South Koreans have advanced to the knockout stages once in the last three times they have participated in the 2015 World Cup. Four years ago, the Korean team lost all three games.
Morocco, one of eight first-time qualifiers to the Women’s World Cup, could be out of luck playing in a group that includes former champions (Germany), Asia’s regulars (South Korea) and South America’s second-placed team (Colombia).
But the fact that Morocco is in the tournament, which opened in Australia and New Zealand on Thursday, and that there is a Moroccan women’s team, has been a source of inspiration and visible pride both at home and abroad.
Morocco have qualified for the Women’s World Cup for the first time from North Africa and the first from an Arab-majority country. Yet the team was largely unknown, even to most Moroccans, until last July when it hosted an event at home that doubled as a continental qualifier for the World Cup.But as they go from win to win, stadiums in this country started to fill up with fansFor many of them, it will be their first time seeing the team play.
In a country where soccer is revered, interest in the women’s game is a new phenomenon, and its success has made the team more popular. “They showed us that they can fill stadiums and make Moroccans happy,” said French coach Reinaldo Pedros. “They’ve done it on the African stage. We now want to do the same on the international stage.”