Morocco the favourites as Burkina Faso look to spring a surprise in WAFCON 2022 opening match

Morocco the favourites as Burkina Faso look to spring a surprise in WAFCON 2022 opening match
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The women’s national teams of hosts Morocco and Burkina Faso are all set to do battle in the opening match of the 2022 Women’s African Cup of Nations.

The Atlas Lionesses are favourites to kick off the tournament positively against the Stallions in this first duel of Group A at the impressive Moulay Abdellah Sports Complex in Rabat, which will kick off the 14th edition of WAFCON and the first to be hosted by the Moroccans.

The moment long awaited by lovers of women’s football across the African continent has finally arrived, with the match kicking off on Saturday night at 21h30pm local time.

This is the first time that the two women’s teams of Morocco and Burkina Faso have met in an official competition.  They faced each other in a friendly in October 2017 in Salé and the match ended in a 1-1 draw.

After 22 years of absence from the competition, the Atlas Lionesses will look to do better than they did in their two previous participations in the tournament, when they failed to progress past the first round in 1998 and 2000.

While the Moroccan women may well be favourites, they will have to manage the inevitable pressure faced by any organizing country that plays the opening match in front of its expectant home fans.

Moroccan supporters are committed to their cause and much is expected of the Atlas Lionesses, a fact that does not perturb their coach Reynald Pedros.

“Indeed, the event is important for the players and the country, but the whole thing is not to put negative pressure on the players. Personally, I did not talk much about this match to my players and the goal is to make this pressure positive,” he said at a pre-match press conference.

Automatically qualified as host country, Morocco is bolstered by the recruitment of the Frenchman Pedros as coach, but also the arrival of several players plying their trade in Europe, such as Tottenham striker Rosella Ayyane

The Moroccans have also held no less than 14 friendly matches against opponents of different calibre, including Spain, Senegal and Ghana.

“The group is our strength,” says team captain Ghizlane Chebbak, who added that ‘’a lot has changed in the Moroccan national team since the arrival of this staff. Moroccans are increasingly following the performances of the women’s team. We hope to see a lot of people at the stadium on Saturday to support us and we hope to live up to their expectations.’’

In turn Burkina Faso are participating in their very first WAFCON after a successful qualifying campaign in which Pascal Sawadogo’s players eliminated Benin 5-2 on aggregate and Guinea Bissau 7-0 on aggregate in impressive double-headed qualifiers.

Looking relaxed during the pre-match press conference, the coach of the Ladies Stallions, Sawadogo, said that his primary objective during this match is to “seduce the public and the fans and prove that women also know how to play football.”

“It is often said that behind every man is a great lady, but today I will say that we are side by side. I can’t talk about the strengths and weaknesses of our opponent but what I can say is that Moroccan women play good football. We will play to our qualities and we will bleed to win. I think our group is very balanced,” said Sawadogo.

Tournament preparations for Burkina Faso have been somewhat hectic due to budgetary constraints and they have had to be content with a training camp in Ouagadougou and a few friendly matches against Under 20 teams from local academies and clubs in the lead up to the tournament.

Despite these hazards the captain of the Burkina Faso women’s team, Charlotte Millogo, said that “the atmosphere is good within the group and the whole team is ready to play a good game. We left all our problems in Ouagadougou and we are focused on our competition.”

Are the Ladies’ Stallions able to create surprises in this tournament against the odds?

The answer will come after 90 minutes on Saturday 2 July, as experienced Rwandan referee Salima Rhadia Mukansanga gets WAFCON 2022 up and running.


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