Morocco won a Women’s World Cup match for the first time after Ibtissam Jraidi struck early to give them a stunning 1-0 victory over South Korea on Sunday.
Having been thrashed 6-0 by Germany on their World Cup debut, this hard-earned win kept alive Morocco’s unlikely chances of reaching the last 16 in Australia and New Zealand.
As well as the first Morocco victory ever at the tournament, there was another piece of history when defender Nouhaila Benzina became the first player to wear a hijab at the Women’s World Cup.
“We are just so glad that our efforts paid off,” said the goal-scorer Jraidi.
“I would like to dedicate this victory to Morocco and all the Arab nations at large. It was the fruit of our hard work.”
French coach Reynald Pedros saw his Morocco team take the lead after only six minutes in front of just over 13,000 fans in Adelaide.
Hanane Ait El Haj crossed and forward Jraidi nipped in ahead of her marker to expertly glance her header into the far corner.
Morocco, one of the lowest-ranked teams at the tournament at 72 in the world, were supposed underdogs against the 17th-ranked Koreans.
But they made by far the better start against shell-shocked opponents.
Colin Bell’s Korean side belatedly grew into the game towards the end of the first half, but like in their 2-0 opening defeat to Colombia, they lacked punch up front.
Many of the crowd were shouting for the Koreans and their team piled on the pressure in the second half as they attempted to keep their World Cup hopes alive.
Morocco were grimly hanging on.
The Koreans had three players on two as they raced towards Morocco’s goal, only for Benzina to cynically clip an advancing Korean attacker and earn a yellow card.
Bell threw on attacker Casey Phair, the United States-born 16-year-old who is the youngest player ever to feature at a Women’s World Cup.
But Morocco held on for a gritty win that left South Korea facing an early exit from Group H, having failed to get even one shot on target despite all their possession.
“First of all, congratulations to Morocco on the win, the first in their World Cup history,” the Englishman Bell said.
“I’m not going to say it was deserved. They got off to a good start and that affected us in the first half.
“Second half we had almost all of the play, but the chances that we did create, we rushed them, we didn’t take them.
“I’ve experienced many ups and downs in football, and this is definitely one of the worst moments.”