Morocco/South Africa: Morocco Skipper Chebbak Tells of Pride At Changing Perceptions At Cup of Nations

Morocco skipper Ghizlane Chebbak on Friday hailed her teammates for the way they had changed views about women’s football during their surge to the final at the Cup of Nations.

The Atlas Lionesses – Morocco’s nickname – take on South Africa on Saturday night at the Prince Moulay Abdallah Stadium in Rabat attempting to claim the title for the first time.

Just over a week ago, Morocco beat Botswana 2-1 to reach the semi-final of the tournament and capture one of the four automatic places from Africa for the World Cup for the first time.

“No-one believed in us at the beginning of the competition,” said Chebbak whose father, Larbi, played for Morocco.

“But I’m proud that we have been able to change the perceptions of people.

“Our team has been the first to qualify for the World Cup and we want to be the first to win the Cup of Nations.

Joy

“All the players are glad that women’s football has attracted so many people and we’re happy that we’ve been able to reach out to fans who’ve seen us play and the effort that we make on the field.”

The hosts face a formidable obstacle. Morocco boss Reynald Pedros described South Africa as one of the best teams on the continent.

But his troops will be in a buoyant mood after eliminating the defending champions Nigeria in the semi-final.

“South Africa are very technical. They’re offensive and play good football,” said Pedros. “But we’ll be in the match to impose our style of play.

“Obviously I want us to win the final but just as much I hope it will be a great match that people can enjoy.”

Partisans

More than 45,000 fans packed the Prince Moulay Abdallah Stadium in Rabat for the semi-final victory. Organisers expect that record attendance to be eclipsed.

“Not that many fans were at the first match of the group stages,” Pedros recalled. “But they’ve been coming in greater numbers. We haven’t been winning our matches by luck. We’ve been showing heart and courage.

“People aren’t stupid. They can see it’s a fantastic team that’s giving its all on the field to get the result and impress the fans.”

Nigeria goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie criticised the behaviour of certain sections of the crowd following the semi-final.

She complained of lasers being shone in her eyes and at the Nigerian penalty-takers during the shoot-out.

Composure

South Africa coach Desiree Ellis said her team would not be unhinged by such antics. “The players have been in situations where the crowd has not been behind them,” said the 59-year-old.

“We have to stay concentrated. We have to make sure we don’t concede. We will create chances and we must be clinical in front of goal.”

South Africa’s five previous visits to the final have resulted in defeats on each occasion to Nigeria.

To hoist their first continental crown, the Banyana Banyana – as they are nicknamed – must overcome the team that toppled their bete noire.

“Morocco aren’t in the final by chance,” said Ellis, who picked up the 2022 Caf coach of the year award on Thursday night.

“They started their programme a while ago. They have a two tier professional league. They have a national league for under -17s.

“They’ve brought in a coach who won league titles in France and the Champions League and have had a lot of friendlies against top teams.

Ellis added: “They’ll have analyzed us just as we’ve analyzed them. We have to execute our game plan. That’s what it’s about and if the players execute it, we will come out with a positive result.”

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