The women’s World Cup should have been, and still is in many ways, a celebration of how far the game has come from where it was even just four years ago. The attention is greater, the players, and the teams are better, the standard of play keeps rising, the expectation grows, as does the respect when it starts. And yet it becomes a theater for the problems the game still has, as evidenced by all the teams in disputes with their various governing bodies. It is the best place to highlight the fight for what is right, as proven by the USWNT, but we still hope that one day soon it will be a competition that shows only the best the game has to offer.
That is why Morocco is such a breath of fresh air. Here is a team making their first ever World Cup appearance in years (second place in the most recent AFCON), with the full backing and dedicated support of their FA with a vision and plan to grow the fans at an exponential rate back home. And that’s in a country that hasn’t always been the most welcoming of women’s sports overall.
The story of the rise of the women’s team in Morocco is not so complicated that other nations could not easily imitate it. It only requires the will. It is the building of King Mohammed VI training centre in 2009. It is the hiring of Kelly Lindsey, formerly of the USWNT, as director. And let her rent Reynald Peters as a manager, again winning Ligue 1 with Lyon, and the Champions League twice. He is creating two professional sets with promotion and relegation and regional under 17 leagues for children everywhere in the country to play and grow. The revelation is the King Mohammed VI Football Complex in Rabat which cost the two national teams hundreds of millions of dollars which is the envy of many national teams around the world. It’s setting a goal and then doing what it takes to achieve it instead of saying it to get your name in the paper.
And now Morocco has seen the first results. Second place at the AFCON they hosted, which qualified them for this World Cup, is their best result. They were able to start the revival of the national team by attracting a number of dual nationals to play for them, no doubt influenced by the commitment and facilities of the FA, and the government has shown its interest in the women’s game in the country. His star striker, Tottenham’s Rosella Ayane – who scored the penalty who reached the World Cup – born in England. Exciting winger Sakina Ouzraoui was born in Spain. About half of the squad are dual nationals, drawn to play for Pedros and go to the World Cup, and they make a bit of noise when they’re there.
It won’t be easy, but it’s definitely possible. Germany are the underdogs in the group, while Colombia have consistently been the second best team in South America behind Brazil. The Republic of Korea finished just as the runner-up in the Asian Cup to China. The games between the last three will decide everything. Morocco are unlucky in that their first match is against Germany, but Korea may find Germany in their sandals in the final group game where they are likely to have everything hit.
That doesn’t mean Morocco won’t still win more fans in this tournament. They have a spicy front line with Amani, Ouzraoui, and Fatima Tagnaout all rotating and shifting as they all go wide and get into the box, and keep defenders’ heads spinning. Behind them is Ghizlane Chebbak, who shits like this:
Morocco will not be here to park the bus at all, they are not that good defensively, so they will likely try to attack, and score their way out of this group.
And if they make it out of this group, and if they entertain, they will be an example of what other countries that have not reached the highest level in the women’s game can do, without asking and then putting it back with money, and organization. Fuck, they could be a role model for the powers of the world too.
The other big story of this tournament, players missing due to ACL injuries, has mostly come against Germany, which is why many people are picking the damn thing to win (including this one). That does not mean that Die Nationalelf is completely full strength, missing names like Giulia Gwinn, and Lind Dallmann. But what remains is probably the deepest team in this tournament, with two possible candidates for player of the tournament in Alexandra Popp, and Lena Oberdorf. Popp’s goals were the biggest catalyst for the Germans going to the Euro Final last summer, and if she hadn’t injured herself in the warm-up to that final it might have gone the other way. Oberdorf, along with Gwinn, was the star of the game at the bottom of the midfield, and at some point he will be facing a tackle that Tony Khan will be rushing to offer her an AEW contract. She just dominates any midfield she’s in.
The majority of the German team comes from Wolfsburg, the country’s powerhouse club who lost to Barcelona in the last Champions League final. Oberdorf’s current friends in the middle of the field are Sara Däbritz, who had a year below her in the first place with Lyon but was a big cog for PSG in the previous two seasons, and Lina Magull who is an engine for Bayern Munich. Popp will be joined by Wolfsburg teammate Svenja Huth, who has provided 31 assists over the past three seasons, and another star in Jule Brand. Lea Schuller, who scored 14 goals in the Bundesliga last season, may be the first choice off the bench. Same with Nicole Anyomi in jet heels. Maybe only USA could change a game with subs as much as Germany could.
If you need a bathtub of caffeine to stay up for this tournament, look to Colombia to provide most of it. They push badly without much structure, and their attack system is like the Vegas Golden Knights ploy of “Get the fuck up there as fucking fast as possible.” They’re going to expose themselves to that press, so they’re going to force teams into a lot of turnovers that turn into chances but they’re also going to give up a ton on the occasions that teams go through their press. There will be goals here, and many of them may come from Linda Caicedo. Caicedo moved to Real Madrid at 17 midway through this past season, scoring two goals and adding four assists in 10 games. She was player of the tournament in the Copa Libertadores as a teenager, and feels like a player who could enter the Ballon D’or discussion down the line.
Their match with Korea should be a big watch, given Korea’s ability with the ball, fluidity in movement, and their organization. Each of the movements – the high pressure wingbacks in their 3-5-2/3-4-3, the two midfielders who have options for the defense to pass and under pressure – is to liberate # 10 Ji So-Yun. So-Yun was a regular for Chelsea for six seasons before moving back to Korea. Korea will go as far as it can take them.