WAFCON 2022: Morocco staying grounded despite progress, says Rosella Ayane

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Rosella Ayane (right) celebrates a goal for MoroccoRosella Ayane opened the scoring for Morocco in their WAFCON Group A game against Uganda

Morocco forward Rosella Ayane says the Women's Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON) hosts will not look too far ahead despite booking their spot in the quarter-finals with a game to spare.

The Atlas Lionesses top Group A on goals scored after beating Uganda 3-1 on Tuesday, and they face closest challengers Senegal, who have also qualified, on Friday.

The team which finishes first in the group will face a third-paced side in the last eight, with qualification for the 2023 Women's World Cup guaranteed for the winners of that tie.

"Of course, when you're playing tournament football you want to top the group," Ayane told BBC Sport Africa.

"I don't think we've necessarily thought too far ahead about teams we want to avoid. I'm pretty confident in our squad and I'm pretty confident that whoever we face we can put in a good performance.

"I want to qualify for the World Cup but all focus goes to Senegal on Friday and hopefully topping the group.

"I believe in the team and I think we've got a very good squad. I think we're improving each game."

Ayane opened the scoring for Morocco from the penalty spot and second-half efforts from Nesryne El Chad and captain Ghizlane Chebbak settled the match after Sumaya Komuntale had curled in a free-kick to equalise for Uganda before the break.

Representing Morocco 'the best decision'

Rosella Ayane in action for TottenhamAyane made her international debut for Morocco last year

Tottenham Hotspur player Ayane holds dual English and Moroccan nationality and represented England at Under-17 and Under-19 level.

However, she decided to play internationally for the North Africans last year.

"I have a special connection with Morocco," the 26-year-old said.

"I was born in England. But it's so, so special playing for Morocco, and I wouldn't change it. It means a lot to me with my dad's side of the family and my dad's heritage.

"It's probably the best decision I've made. I'm absolutely loving it here in Africa and the crowd in Morocco is completely different to what you get back home [in England]. It's a real vibe."

The expansion of WAFCON from eight to 12 teams still gives Uganda hope of reaching the quarter-finals as the Crested Cranes face Burkina Faso in their final Group match.

Both sides are without a point after two matches, having lost to Morocco and Senegal, but a win for either side could be enough to progress.

"We are still going to do our best," Uganda coach George Lutalo said.

"We still stand the chance of qualifying so we are not going to give up. We are going to organise ourselves and then we come strongly to play that game properly."

Earlier in Rabat, Senegal sealed their spot in the quarter-finals with a 1-0 victory over Burkina Faso.

Korka Fall netted the winner in the 84th minute from the penalty spot after Hapsatou Malado Diallo was bundled over in the box.

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