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Explosion of joy' as World Cup debutants Morocco reach last 16

Morocco's defender #03 Nouhaila Benzina (L) embraces Morocco's goalkeeper #22 Ines Arouaissa as they celebrate their team's qualification August 3 2023   -  
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COLIN MURTY/AFP or licensors


Goal-scorer Anissa Lahmari called it an "explosion of joy" as World Cup debutants Morocco qualified for the last 16 at the expense of Germany after stunning Colombia 1-0 on Thursday.

One of the lowest-ranked teams at the tournament at 72 in the world, Morocco face France on Tuesday in the knockouts.

Lahmari's winner just before half-time separated the teams in Perth, but Morocco then endured a few nerve-jangling minutes with Germany and South Korea locked at 1-1 in Brisbane and still playing.

Two-times former champions Germany needed a victory to overtake Morocco on goal difference and progress from Group H.

But they could not produce a late winner, triggering wild celebrations from Morocco's players and staff.

"At the end of our game, we came together and we were praying," Lahmari told reporters.

"(When we found out) it was a draw... it was a complete explosion of joy.

"We are so proud, delighted and happy. Emotions are running high."

It was a fairytale moment for Morocco, who rebounded from a humiliating 6-0 drubbing on their debut against Germany with wins over South Korea and now Colombia.

They will be dreaming of emulating their men's team, who made a shock run to the semi-finals of the World Cup in Qatar last year.

"We came here as debutants. There was a lot of emotion and those emotions were overwhelming against Germany," said coach Reynald Pedros.

"We helped them continue to be motivated, made adjustments and there was a lot of hard work."

The clash with France pits Pedros against the country he represented as a player.

"It is very special because it is France," Pedros said.

"I know the French team very well and maybe it will help us. They will be very difficult to play.

"If we have the same mindset, maybe we can go further. Our objective is not to stop now."

Despite the defeat Colombia finished on top of the group to set up a clash with Jamaica.

They will be without defender Manuela Vanegas, who picked up her second yellow card of the tournament.

"We can replace her... we wanted to qualify first in our group," said Colombia coach Nelson Abadia, explaining his decision to play Vanegas.

"The next match is sudden death. We are facing a very good rival who are physical, good in defence and have a good counterattack.

"It is a good opportunity for both teams."

- Caicedo clattered -

In front of 17,342 fans in Perth, the sole goal arrived moments before half-time when Ibtissam Jraidi was impeded in the box.

Morocco captain Ghizlane Chebbak's penalty kick was spectacularly saved by goalkeeper Catalina Perez, who dived to her left.

But Sakina Ouzraoui pounced on the rebound and her nifty pass found Lahmari, who made no mistake from close range.

Colombia fielded a full-strength team despite having effectively qualified for the last 16 before this game.

Real Madrid striker Linda Caicedo took her place after x-rays cleared her of any health issues.

Caicedo, who scored goals in wins against South Korea and Germany, had suffered breathing difficulties against the Germans just days after collapsing in training with chest pain.

Caicedo had limited impact against Morocco and copped an errant tackle to her foot which had her writhing on the turf.

She was finally involved just before half-time with several menacing dashes down the right, but Colombia couldn't capitalise.

Morocco made them pay with Lahmari's goal putting the group on a knife's edge at the interval.

Colombia came out aggressively and almost equalised on the hour when Daniela Montoya's bullet effort was brilliantly saved by goalkeeper Khadija Er-Rmichi.

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