In their final group game, hosts Morocco take on Senegal needing just a draw to confirm group C’s top spot in the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations. The Atlas Lionesses go into the game level on points and goal difference with the Teranga Lionesses but have scored one more goal than their rivals, giving them the edge.
Morocco winning without impressing
The home side came into the tournament with a lot of hype around the side. With excellent preparation and a top class coach in Reynald Pedros, but they have not yet hit the heights that were promised.
They laboured to a win against Burkina Faso, and against Uganda, two harsh decisions on the Ugandans gave the Atlas Lionesses two penalties on their way to victory.
They have shown moments of the class that was expected of them. Fatima Tagnaout and Sanaa Mssoudy displayed their technical brilliance in moments. Rosella Ayane has shown what an effective forward she can be, while not quite finding her finishing boots.
But for all the potential talent in this young squad, it is captain Ghizlane Chebbak who has been the most impressive. In particular her set piece delivery has been superb, creating more chances than any other player in the squad with her freekicks and corners.
Having a player of her quality means that even in the two games where they have laboured, any dead ball situation within 30 yards of goal, is a near guaranteed chance. However, against a Senegalese defence that have not yet conceded and are extremely powerful, her delivery might not mean as much if her team struggle to win the aerial battle.
Solid Teranga Lionesses provide a new challenge
Like Morocco, Senegal have already made history, by qualifying out of the group stage for the first time in their history. The success they have enjoyed has come off the back of a rock solid defence backed by a reliable Tening Sene in goal.
Mbayang Sow leads a powerful backline that have looked comfortable dealing with what the Ugandans and Burkinabes had to throw at them. They are well organised and physically dominant.
But Morocco will be a different test for their resolution. Morocco have much better rotations than either Uganda or Burkina Faso, and in Ayane they have a forward whose intelligent running will provide a new challenge for Sow and her teammates.
It is higher up the pitch that the West Africans have seen more problems. The team really lacks creativity and is very reliant on individual performances rather than attacking patterns and creativity to create chances.
In both of their matches they have relied on the excellence of 17 year-old Hapsatou Diallo to win penalties to take the lead. While she is an excellent winger, giving the ball to her and hoping she can win penalties is not a reliable strategy.
Both sides come into the game not needing a result, but wanting a win which sets up an intriguing encounter in the first match of the final round of group stage matches.
What they said
Morocco head coach Reynald Pedros:
“It is for us when we tried to score a goal we progress. So we have a very simple objective which is to win this game. We have to finish and win this game to win the group.
“They are a very good team as you all know I have said this and ill say it again. We are in an open group from the start. So we are able to see that nothing is easy. Any match we play is disputed.”
Senegal head coach Serigne Cisse:
“We will be playing tomorrow against the Moroccan team for the final of the pool. It’s important for both our teams to try deliver a good match. We will aim for the first place, so we will play the game as we need to.”