Last night, Morocco played their first-ever Women’s World Cup match in front of 27,256 fans at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium.
Their opponents? The formidable Germany, who have won the tournament twice before in 2003 and 2007, and are currently ranked second in the world.
Morocco’s inaugural game wasn’t easy.
The first half saw the debutants go down by two goals thanks to Germany’s captain Alexandra Popp - her first, a decisive header early in the match, followed by a front post effort just before half-time.
Germany scored a further four goals in the second half – a Klara Buehl rifle, a Lea Schuller volley, and two own goals, leaving the final score 6-0 in Germany’s favour.
It might not have been the result they were after, but this was a huge game for Moroccan fans and for women’s football in the North African country.
Spectators from all over the world made their way out to Melbourne to watch the history-making battle, one, in particular, was 14-year-old Moroccan fan, Rita. Donning her red and green jersey with her face painted in the colours of her country, the significance of her team making their World Cup debut was not lost on her.
Rita has been a football fan for several years and was ecstatic when she found out Morocco would be playing in the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™. She travelled with her mum and friends, desperate to watch Morocco’s first-ever match.
“It doesn’t matter about the score line, it just means so much to get to watch the girls play, and to be here with my mum. I know it means a lot for her to be here and watch it too. It’s a special moment that I think I’ll remember forever,” she said.
After witnessing the success of the Moroccan men’s national team who made it to the semi-finals at the Men’s FIFA World Cup 2022™ in Qatar last year, Rita was one of many fans desperate to see the women play in the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ this year.
While there was a healthy dose of German representation on the ground, it was the Moroccans who brought the most noise to the stadium. Hours before the 6:30 pm kick-off, thousands of Moroccan fans gathered at Federation Square and littered the outskirts of Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, banging drums, cheering and singing.
You could feel the passion inside the stadium too - in the 24th minute, Morocco had their first chance of the game. The ball came off the boot of captain Rosella Ayane and the crowd roared. The Moroccan fans were electric, and the support didn’t go unnoticed - in a game where Germany were the heavy favourites, the team in red and green put up a good fight and made their country proud.
The Moroccan team are the underdogs of Group H, with the FIFA World Rankings currently positioning them at 72. Morocco’s next game will be against 17th-placed South Korea on July 30, followed by their final group-stage game against 25th-placed Columbia on August 3.
After their 6-0 defeat, Morocco will be sitting at the bottom of their group and have a lot of work to do on the pitch if they want to make it to the Round of 16.
But last night’s game wasn’t just about the score line for Morocco – and the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023™ represents more than just winning a tournament. It’s about unity, rising above our differences and barracking for your team and your country.
And seeing the smiling faces of the Moroccan fans in the crowd, supporting their team even after a 6-0 defeat… That’s what football is all about.