Wafcon 2022: Morocco potential excites Rosella Ayane after World Cup qualification

4 weeks ago 346
Morocco celebrate after beating Botswana at the Women's Africa Cup of NationsMorocco celebrated their World Cup qualification and Wafcon semi-final spot in front of a packed Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium

Forward Rosella Ayane is excited by Morocco's potential after the side qualified for the 2023 Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

The North Africans have reached the global finals for the first time after beating Botswana in the quarter-finals at the Women's Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon).

The Atlas Lionesses won 2-1 in Rabat on Wednesday and the Wafcon hosts can now look forward to a semi-final match up against Nigeria or Cameroon, who meet in the last eight on Thursday.

"It's a historic achievement and one I'm never going to forget. It's a very proud feeling for me, for my family," Ayane told BBC Sport Africa.

"It was a dream [to qualify], but as time went on and I was working more and more with the team and we were playing more and more games, I really saw the potential.

"I've not been here that long. but I'm excited for the future and what's to come with this team."

Despite playing in their first Wafcon in 22 years, the Moroccans have been one of the best teams at the tournament.

The hosts and South Africa were the only two sides to win all three group games, and the Atlas Lionesses followed that up with a gritty performance against a stubborn Botswana side.

On Monday the North Africans will come up against one of the giants of African football, record nine-time winners Nigeria or three-time runners-up Cameroon.

"They're two massive nations that need to be respected. A lot of history," 26-year-old Tottenham player Ayane said of their potential semi-final opponents.

"They've played on the international stage at World Cups before, so teams not to take lightly.

"I'll tune into the game and pick up on what I can. We'll get ready to go again and hopefully get into the final."

Zambia qualification 'a platform for change'

Zambia goalkeeper Hazel Nali celebrates after their penalty shoot-out win against Senegal at WafconGoalkeeper Hazel Nali scored the winning penalty for Zambia in their Wafcon quarter-final shoot-out against Senegal

Meanwhile, Zambia coach Bruce Mwape says his charges can go on and win Wafcon after booking their semi-final spot and, like Morocco, picking up their maiden ticket to the Women's World Cup.

The Copper Queens won their last-eight tie against Senegal on penalties, and will face either South Africa or Tunisia in the next round.

"It feels like the tournament is over because I said our target was to qualify to the World Cup," Mwape told BBC Sport Africa.

"Now that that part is gone, we'll now focus on the on the cup. Qualifying for the World Cup feels good. Not only to me, even the team and the country at large.

"I am sure back home people are very excited. We are getting messages every time we play a game."

Defender Esther Siamfuko echoed her manager's sentiments, before adding that they can emulate Zambia's men side who conquered the continent in 2012.

"It has always been our dream to play at the biggest stage," she said.

Zambia made their Olympic Games debut last year and their first-ever qualification for the World Cup is all the more impressive given the absence of star striker Barbra Banda, who has missed the tournament over 'gender eligibility' issues.

Siamfuko believes appearing at the World Cup will help improve the women's game in the country - but sponsors and stakeholders must offer their support.

"This qualification really means a lot because this is a platform [for us] to make our change," she added.

"It will give us the voice to speak out and that is what is going to bring all the changes that we want to see.

"We need adequate preparations and we need sponsors on board, because we have a league which is not so competitive. We need to be given a bigger platform where we could express and also improve ourselves."

Source Article