The dust has settled on Africa’s 2023 Women’s World Cup and each of the four teams from the continent will be pleased with their efforts for differing reasons. Three of them reached the round of 16, and for Zambia there was a maiden World Cup win in their first visit to the global showpiece event.
We provide an assessment of how they fared in Australia and New Zealand.
Finish: Round of 16
Key player: Anissa Lahmari
Group H position: Second in the pool with six points (W2 L1)
Their results: Morocco started the tournament with a horror 6-0 loss to Germany in which they conceded two own goals and looked completely out of their depth at this level.
But to be fair, they pulled it together and secured a pair of 1-0 wins over South Korea and Colombia that booked what had seemed an unlikely passage into the round of 16. There they met France and lost 4-0 as the Europeans had too much pace and flair for Morocco.
Meeting expectations: They exceeded them on debut, and then some. Few outside the camp gave them a chance to get out of their pool, they came into the competition shy of goals and without much of a record against top teams.
Their horror loss at the start only confirmed those opinions. But they pulled it off with two solid displays in which they were compact and organised, and can go home with a lot to build on. For Morocco this tournament was a huge success.
What coach Reynald Pedros said:
“I am going to congratulate and thank them (the players) because what they have given us in terms of emotions is quite incredible, and then we will get back down to work,. We have the Olympic qualifiers to prepare for and we have gained experience from this. I am really, really proud to be coach of this team because we have fantastic players.”
Finish: Round of 16
Key player: Chiamaka Nnadozie
Group B position: Second in the pool with five points (W1 D2)
Their results: Nigeria started with a 0-0 draw against Canada, where they needed a penalty save from goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie. But they got better as the tournament went on, beating co-hosts Australia 3-2 with a superb performance, before a 0-0 draw with Republic of Ireland sent them through to the round of 16. There they have European champions England and were arguably the better side, but another goalless draw led to penalties and a ticket home.
Meeting expectations: As an established power on the African continent, and with a strong group of players drawn from leagues across the world, Nigeria would have hoped to reach the round of 16 at least, even if they were in a tough pool. They achieved that, so it was job done, but with a bit more luck they might have gone further.
What coach Randy Waldrum said:
“I hope people have seen that there is talent there and that we have the ability, and with a little structure and a little organisation, and a commitment to provide the resources that we need, hopefully people see that we can be a major player on the world stage.”
Finish: Round of 16
Key player: Thembi Kgatlana
Group G position: Second in the pool with four points (W1 D1 L1)
Their results: Banyana Banyana played four games and were competitive in every one, even if they only claimed a single victory. That is a huge step forward from four years ago in France when they were outplayed in their three matches.
They lost 2-1 to Sweden after conceded a last-gasp goal, and then blew a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 with Argentina. They may well have been on four points after those two games instead of the one.
But they stepped up and showed huge mental strength to beat Italy 3-2 and book their passage to the round of 16. There they faced a very good Netherlands team and, while they had their chances, lost 2-0 with two poor goals to give away. But again, they gave the more established side a real scare and run for their money.
Meeting expectations: Banyana Banyana exceeded the expectations of many, who did not see them getting out of a tricky group. A first ever World Cup win and knockout round place was reward for their huge improvement as a team, and the trick now is to grow from here by putting in place the right structures to advance women’s football. The potential is quite clearly there, but can it be harnessed?
What coach Desiree Ellis said:
“I think as a group, we need to hold our heads up high. When we qualified for the last 16, the whole country went crazy and I’m expecting them to go crazy when we get back. This team really punched above their weight considering that we do not have what everybody else has – a professional league.”
Finish: Group stages
Key player: Barbra Banda
Group C position: Third in the pool with three points (W1 L2)
Their results: Zambia were one of the first team knocked out of the World Cup after a chastening pair of 5-0 defeats to Japan and Spain, but rallied to win their last game with a 3-1 success over Costa Rica. They learnt quickly and there is no doubt the team will be better for this experience, but tactically they were caught a little short.
Meeting expectations: Coach Bruce Mwape went into the World Cup claiming Zambia could match any side – buoyed by a 3-2 victory over Germany in a warm-up game. That proved a little fanciful and they were easily picked apart in their opening two matches, but ending with a win was crucial in giving them something to take home. For those from the outside the World Cup went probably as they predicted, so Zambia can say they met expectations.
What coach Bruce Mwape said:
“We are very happy to win our last game in the tournament. Everybody worked very hard to come up with this positive result … I hope next time we’ll come (to a World Cup) with a different approach. We have learnt a lot from different teams. We have played against some of the best players in the world. This is a good experience.” -SuperSport