Ibtissam Jraidi became the first Moroccan to score at a Women's World Cup while Nouhaila Benzina became the first player to wear a hijab during a match against South Korea on Sunday.
Jraidi's goal on six minutes was enough to earn World Cup debutants Morocco a 1-0 win at the Hindmarsh Stadium in Adelaide to move them level on points with Germany and Colombia, who play later on Sunday, on three points in Group H.
“We need to savour the win tonight, all together,” Morocco head coach Reynald Pedros said. “From tomorrow, this game is behind us. What’s important is what is going to happen against Colombia.”
In the men's World Cup last year, Morocco strung together its own run of upsets. The team advanced to the round of 16 for the first time since 1986 and became the first African or Arab nation to reach the World Cup semifinals. The team caught attention with wins over Belgium, Canada in the group stage, followed by knockout wins over Spain and Portugal before a semifinal loss to France.
The women’s team has already made Women’s World Cup history as the first Arab or North African nation to qualify.
“We have the same sense of determination and motivation, that this is a dream that’s going to come true, as with the Qatar World Cup, where the men were able to make history,” Morocco captain Ghizlane Chebbak said before the tournament started. “We hope we can replicate the same achievements of the men’s team.”
It is a remarkable turnaround from their opening match, when Morocco were soundly beaten 6-0 by the Germans.
World governing body Fifa lifted its ban on footballers wearing the hijab nearly a decade ago, after previous concerns over player safety.
The 25-year-old defender Benzina, who plays her club football in Morocco with Sports Association of the Royal Armed Forces club, started the match against South Korea to write her name in the history books.
Benzina shared social media posts in the lead-up to the World Cup about wearing a hijab, but has not spoken to the media in Australia and New Zealand about it.
“I have no doubt that more and more women and Muslim girls will look at Benzina and just really be inspired – not just the players, but I think decision makers, coaches, other sports as well,” said Assmaah Helal, a co-founder of the Muslim Women in Sports Network.
Several other sports have lifted hijab bans in recent years including basketball, but it is still not allowed during official football matches in France.
Morocco will take on Colombia on the final day of the group stage Thursday in Perth in a match that may decide which of the two teams advances to the round of 16. South Korea will play Germany in Brisbane. The two matches will kick off simultaneously.