Captain Ghizlane Chebback scored a first-half winner as hosts Morocco defeated debutants Burkina Faso 1-0 in the opening match of the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Saturday night.
With Fifa president Gianni Infantino and his Caf counterpart Patrice Motsepe looking on, the teams put on an entertaining show, though it was the home side who dominated proceedings and should have won by a greater margin.
But in the end they will be relieved to have got the three points and their campaign off to a positive start against a Burkina Faso side that clearly has quality in it, if perhaps not the tactical know-how of their rivals.
Burkina Faso’s game-plan was clear, to try and soak up the Moroccan pressure and then use their pace to hit the home side on the break.
It almost worked on a few occasions early on, especially with the lively Adama Congo running at the Moroccan defence.
But the first real sight of goal came for the hosts as Salma Amani had a shot on the run that was well saved by Burkinabe goalkeeper Mariam Ouattara.
The breakthrough for Morocco came just before the half-hour mark as Chebback squeezed a free-kick in at the near post from the edge of the box, though Ouattara will feel she should have kept the ball out. It was an awkward bounce in front of her, but she let the ball squirm into the net.
Morocco almost made it 2-0 when Elchad Nesryne had a header from a corner cleared off the line by Wende Nako, as they dominated both the possession and the territory stats.
Tottenham Hotspur forward Rosella Ayane had some neat passes around the box and looked a player of real quality, but she spurned a good chance 10 minutes into the second period as her heavy first touch allowed Ouattara to gather at her feet.
The Burkinabe keeper was tested again when Chebback went for goal again from a free-kick, though this time from 35-yards. Ouattara clawed the ball away from the top corner.
The home side had a huge scare with 15 minutes remaining as goalkeeper Khadija Er-Rmichi had to make a double save from Burkina Faso’s Limata Nikiema and Aicha Milllogo, who both seemed destined to score.
The four semifinalists at the tournament will qualify automatically for the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand next year.
The losing quarterfinalists will face off for the remaining two places in the intercontinental playoffs.