Nigeria team guide
This tournament finds the Nigerian national team in an unusually weak state. After losing the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon), a title it previously monopolized for decades, the Super Falcons will arrive in Australia without their trademark aura.
Of course, 2022 wasn’t the first time that Nigeria failed to win Oufcon. Twice they had been raped by Equatorial Guinea, but on both occasions I felt as if it was partly due to their complacency. This time there is a real sense that the rest of Africa is catching up.
In the continental championship, the Super Falcons lost to both South Africa and host Morocco, and the two teams competed for the final and the latter won. They then lost to Zambia in the third place match.
Given this background, it seems entirely possible that the nine-time African champions could not equal their achievement from the last World Cup, in 2019. They then reached the Round of 16, and their best-ever performance in the tournament was in 1999, when they reached the quarter-finals.
They face a tough group that includes co-hosts Australia and Olympic champions Canada. If they are to progress, they will need to go into their final group match against Ireland with something already on the board.
However, there is some consolation in the fact that the coach, Randy Waldrum, has a team full of talent, especially in the attacking areas.
Barcelona player Asisat Oshoala at the peak of her power. It has just won the Champions League and has a great support team, including Atletico Madrid’s Rashidat Ajibad and Saint-Etienne’s Esther Okoronkwo.
There is also more depth in midfield, an area where Nigeria have struggled for options in the past. “I think the current Super Falcons team is full of many talented players,” Waldrum said. “There are a lot of players who have a lot to offer in the squad and I’m reasonably excited and optimistic.”
Valdrum coach differs in opinion. Aside from the fact that his resume looked rather weak when he was hired, and the fact that he mainly works part-time, he also failed to win the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations last year, something he would have taken for granted in the past.
Defending the 66-year-old faces unprecedented challenges from other African teams, as women’s football on the continent is growing at a rapid pace.
His task is not facilitated by the Nigerian Football Federation who still owe some players’ salaries. However, the jury is still out on the former TT coach. Performances slowly started to improve but poor World Cup performances would leave Waldrum with nowhere to hide.
The status of women’s football in Nigeria
Although Nigeria has achieved massive success, women’s football is receiving the short end of the stick from a financial perspective.
It is well watched – especially during major international tournaments – but its growth is still hampered by a number of factors. Societal stigmas and mismanagement are most prominent. The domestic league often fails to get off the ground on schedule, clubs are underfunded and there is a lack of infrastructure and experience.
Morocco Team guide
Morocco’s first participation in the World Cup is an achievement in itself. Hosting the Wafcon 2022 has been a huge boost to promoting the women’s game in the country. The team was a losing finalist, with a team consisting largely of players from local giants Asfar, and some talented individuals from other regions.
The draw placed Morocco in a challenging group with Germany, South Korea and Colombia. The goal is to reach the knockout stages though it is a very difficult task.
As with the men’s team, the team is a melting pot where four or even five languages are spoken, but the one common goal is not only to succeed on the field, but also to defend the women’s game and act as pioneers for generations to come. It seemed like a real goal in a country where football has always been “the men’s game”.
A shift in mentality occurred in 2022, with Stade Moulay Abdellah in Rabat a full home for every Morocco game across Wafcon. This fever continued when Asfar hosted and won the second edition of the African Women’s Champions League.
Ghizlane Chebbak is the face of Moroccan women’s football. Her late father, Larbi Chebbak, was a Moroccan international who was part of the team that won the Atlas Lions’ only Africa Cup of Nations title in 1976.
He was also Deer’s biggest supporter when she decided to play soccer. Shpak is the captain of domestic giants and an icon in the country.
Whenever she has time, she talks to young girls, encouraging them to follow their dreams and get down to business. “Moroccans love to watch football and they love to support anyone who represents the country,” she said. Fifa.com.
The lack of experience at the highest level may be the main difficulty facing Moroccans. The opening match against Germany is grueling, but anything can happen, and even a near defeat will give the team a real boost on its way to its relations with South Korea and Colombia.
When Reinald Pedro was approached by the Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF) during the Covid-19 pandemic, they wanted a big name to help the team take a big step to the top level.
Pedro proved to be the only one for the role. The former France international is well respected, having won two Ligue 1 titles, one French Cup, and two UEFA Women’s Champions League titles with Lyon.
The tactician understands the importance of the women’s game to Morocco and has brought in a number of young and talented players from Europe. Leading the team to the World Cup could be one of his biggest challenges, but whatever the outcome, he looks set to be linked with Morocco for a long time to come.
The status of women’s football in Morocco
The Royal Women’s Football Association has been investing in promoting women’s football since 2009. However, the pace of development has taken a huge leap in recent years, with the establishment of the Professional League. In order to protect players, FRMF pays their monthly wages. This encouraged a lot of families, who were worried about the uncertainty about their daughters’ soccer career.
In 2018, Morocco hosted the African Women’s Football Symposium. This led to a number of decisions regarding the game’s development. FRMF also created a women’s football academy six years ago. In addition, Morocco is the only country in the world that participates in a two-tier tournament that is fully professional.
Zambia team guide
Zambia’s women’s team is one of the fastest rising African teams, as they were the only African women’s football representative at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The Copper Queens also reached the semi-finals at Wafcon 2022, ensuring their qualification for their first Women’s World Cup appearance in 2023.
Women’s football is still developing in Zambia. However, the national team has achieved great success despite the challenges. The majority of female players have been employed full-time by the Air Force and Army to play football for Zambia’s two most prominent women’s military clubs: the Red Arrows and Green Buffaloes.
Despite having a young squad (with some local players earning as little as 1,000 rand a month at their clubs), Zambia beat highly rated teams such as Senegal, Tunisia and Nigeria in Wafcon. Their only defeat was at the hands of tournament winners South Africa in the semi-finals.
During the tournament, Zambia lost its best strikers, Barbara Banda and Rachel Kondanangi. They were excluded from the competition due to high testosterone levels. However, they have been allowed to play in the World Cup.
Zambia have struggled this year, including losing 10-2 on aggregate to South Korea across back-to-back friendlies in April. Banda and Kundanangi are still adjusting to playing as a pair since returning to the team.
Kondanji finished the 2022/2023 season as the second highest scorer in La Liga, with 25 goals for Madrid. Panda scored nine goals in six matches for Shanghai Shengli in the Chinese Super League.
It is unlikely that they will come out of a group that includes Japan, Spain and Costa Rica. But the experience gained will be invaluable.
Bruce Mwape took over as manager in 2018 but his tenure was shaken up by allegations of sexual misconduct with players.
According to Football Association of Zambian (FAZ) President Andrew Kamanga, the investigation has been referred to the police and FIFA to ensure he is not accused of “taking sides”.
There has been no ruling yet. A Caf A licence, the second highest level of coaching license obtainable on the continent, Mwape has captained the Zambia women’s team to two Wafcon qualifications. And now the World Cup.
The status of women’s football in Zambia
FAZ launched the Women’s Premier Division in 2021, increasing the number of women’s clubs. Despite the fact that the league is solely sponsored by FAZ and is not televised, it has produced many players who now play professional football outside of Zambia. DM