Striker Hildah Magaia scored twice as South Africa’s footballing women claimed their first Women’s Africa Cup of Nations title by beating hosts Morocco 2-1 in Saturday’s final.
South Korea-based Magaia’s goals came in the space of eight minutes as she tapped home from close range in the 63rd minute and added a second in the 71st from a similar position.
A lapse of concentration saw South Africa give away possession to allow Morocco to pull a goal back in the 80th minute through their English-born striker Rosella Ayane.
It set up a nervy finish, which included nine minutes of added time, in front of a capacity crowd in the Moroccan capital Rabat.
It was South Africa’s first title after having finished runners-up five times, including in the last edition in 2018.
Morocco were playing in their first final and will join South Africa at next year’s Women’s World Cup – along with the two beaten semifinalists, Nigeria and Zambia. The Cup of Nations served as Africa’s qualification event for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Banyana Banyana were determined to break the hoodoo of their previous five losing appearances in the final and took charge of the game, with Magaia and Jermaine Seoposenwe combining effectively to cause problems for the Atlas Lionesses’ defence.
First, Hanane Ait El Haj cleared the ball off the line. Then, after just three minutes, Magaia received a pass from Seoposenwe and outwitted goalkeeper Khadija Er-Rmichi.
Then Er-Rmichi charged off her line to deny Magaia from breaking the deadlock in the 35th minute. Moments later, the latter’s freekick from the edge of the box went just wide.
Morocco were pinned in their half and relied on counter-attacks initiated by the talented Fatima Tagnaout. On each occasion, they met a resolute Banyana defence.
Tagnaout caused several problems for the South African defenders on the left and just before the break she combined well with Ayane. But the Tottenham ace failed to connect with the final pass inside the box.
“This is for everyone in women’s football that has tirelessly worked towards this goal. We finally did it. It was a good performance,” Banyana forward Seoposenwe said in her post-match TV interview.
“This was our goal. We as a team decided this is where we want to be, and we want to win it for South Africa. I am so proud of my team. We love you. We’re so proud to be South African.”
Banyana beat tournament favourites Nigeria, as well as Burundi and Botswana, to top Group C.
Tunisia and Zambia were the next victims in the quarters and semis, which saw the South Africans through to their sixth final. Morocco beat Nigeria in the semis to ensure Banyana would have the toughest possible passage to glory – having to beat the host nation in the showpiece.
“It means so much,” coach Desire Ellis said after the match. “Not just to us as a group but to the whole of South Africa, to the coaches that have come before, to the players that have come before. This is for everyone connected to women’s football. A big thank you to Safa (the South African Football Association); a big thank you to the fans as well.
“But, most importantly, to the players, they were absolutely magnificent today. And to the staff; they have done the tireless work behind the scenes.” Reuters/DM