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Five changes Morocco made to secure first Women’s World Cup win

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Morocco have written their names in the history books by recording their first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup™ goal and picking up their first ever win at the tournament against Korea Republic. Not only that, but the Atlas Lionesses know that qualifying for the last 16 now in their hands.

Following a heavy 6-0 defeat at the hands of Germany, many expected the North Africans to struggle in their remaining group games. However, under the stewardship of coach Reynald Pedros, they kick-started their tournament with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Korea Republic. Now, the narrative is about an historic achievement rather than an demoralising defeat, much to the joy of the Moroccan people.

Personnel changes

Pedros rang the changes in both defence and attack for the match against Korea Republic, with the players he brought into the team playing key roles to justify his decision making.

With a completely different pairing in central defence, Morocco looked much more solid at the back. Sarah Kassi and Yasmin Mrabet dropped to the bench, replaced by Nesryne El Chad and Nouhaila Benzina, both of whom performed well and helped their side keep a clean sheet.

In attack, Rosella Ayane and Anissa Lahmari were replaced by Ibtissam Jraidi and Salma Amani. The pair quickly justified their selection, with Jraidi netting the only goal after just six minutes.

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New tactics

Against Germany, it felt as though Morocco’s only plan was to rely on their defence and catch their opponents on the break. Needing a win against the Taegeuk Ladies, they could no longer rely on such a tactic.

This time, Pedros opted for more of a possession game, with greater emphasis on building up from the back and off-the-ball movement to create openings in the opposition defence. The tactical change proved successful, with Morocco taking nine shots on goal and recording 113 line breaks.

Crosses

One of Morocco’s biggest issues against Germany was their positioning when defending crosses. However, the Atlas Lionesses dealt with them much better against Korea Republic, thanks in no small part to the new centre-back pairing. Benzina was particularly key, using her height and leadership skills to great effect.

Morocco also looked to cross the ball in down the other end, attempting 13 in total. Indeed, it was a cross that Jraidi headed home to score their goal, while another almost yielded a second goal shortly afterwards.

Playing the game and not the occasion

Just minutes into their opener, it was clear the Moroccans were feeling the pressure of maiden Women’s World Cup match, particularly faced with the overwhelming experience and strength of Germany. That psychological anxiety surely played a part in their heavy opening defeat.

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Now free from that pressure, Morocco played much more like their usual selves against the Koreans, ultimately securing a historic victory.

Physical superiority

Unlike in their opener, when the Atlas Lionesses appeared incapable of physically matching Germany, they were able to outmuscle and outpace the Taegeuk Ladies. Pedros’ side won far more duels this time out and were quicker to transition from defence to attack and vice versa.

 FIFA.COM

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Manu Garba proud of Eaglets as team countenances Niger Republic

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Coach Manu Garba has asserted that he is proud of the Golden Eaglets after Thursday’s scoreless encounter with their Burkina Faso counterparts in the Group B opener of the WAFU B U17 Championship.

 Five-time champions Nigeria created several scoring chances particularly late in the game at the Accra University Stadium, but failed to utilise even one that could have earned them the three points and handed them early leadership of the pool.

 However, Garba said the boys played a cohesive game in their first-ever international outing and deserve credit for their display.

 “We are proud of our team’s performance. Although we didn’t secure the win that we hoped for, our players showed great teamwork and sportsmanship. We look forward to our next match and the opportunity to continue growing and improving.

 “The boys will get better with experience and exposure.”

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 Against the Burkinabes, the Eaglets showed flair and fluency, but a heavy downpour in the final 15 minutes of the game disrupted the general flow of play, with the pitch waterlogged and effective control and passing impossible.

 The Golden Eaglets go up against their counterparts from the Niger Republic on Sunday evening (6pm Ghana time; 7pm Nigeria) with renewed hope and vigour to pick up the three points that will enhance their chances of a place in the last four.

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Paris to face major disruption ahead of Games opening ceremony, says police chief

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Paris will face major disruption ahead of the Olympics opening ceremony along the Seine on July 26, as organisers ramp up security measures to safeguard the event, the city’s police chief said on Thursday.

Organisers hope the opening ceremony, in which 160 boats carrying athletes from around the world will travel a 6 kilometre route along the Seine river towards the Eiffel tower, will deliver a jaw-dropping spectacle. Some 300,000 spectators will watch from the banks of the Seine as a global audience tunes in on TV.

But the ceremony is also a major security headache, taking place against a backdrop of wars in Ukraine and Gaza. French President Emmanuel Macron has already floated the possibility of scrapping the river ceremony and reverting to at least two back-up plans if the security risks become untenable.

Paris residents with a view of the Seine can invite friends to watch the opening of the 2024 Summer Games from their balconies, but should prepare for heavy traffic and limited movement, Paris police chief Laurent Nunez said at a press conference.

Adjacent metro stations, most river crossings and all water traffic will be halted in the week before the open-air ceremony, Nunez said, adding that some bridges will remain open “in order not to cut Paris in two halves.”

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Everyone who wants to access the immediate surroundings of the Seine in the week before the Games will need to sign up on an online platform, Nunez said. Local residents hoping to access their homes, which are among the most prestigious addresses in France, will need to do the same.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, who also spoke at the event said the disruption would impact around 20,000 residents and business owners.

Asked about Macron’s comments earlier this month, Nunez said his teams were still working on the ‘Plan A’ of the river ceremony.

“As of today, we have no reason to be worried,” Nunez said.

-Reuters

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New dawn expected as Nigeria sports ministry partners with Yanga Games

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Towards creating a new dawn for Nigerian Sports,  the Federal Ministry  of Sports has signed a landmark  agreement with  top lottery  company Yanga Games to raise the revenue profile of the Ministry  and ensure a new deal for the welfare of athletes. 

Speaking during the unveiling  of the partnership between  the Ministry  and  Yanga  Games in Lagos on Friday,  Chairman/CEO of Yanga Games  Derrick  David Kentebe  said: “we are so super excited by this opportunity to work  with the Ministry  of Sports Development to change the narrative about Sports in the country. 

Continuing, he remarked: “We see opportunity for marketing our athletes  and sports generally . We shall avail ourselves  the best use  of this unique and  special partnership. We shall pursue this mandate with vigour, passion and unrivaled  commitment  to bring benefits to all the critical stakeholders.”

The agreement  according  to Kentebe  will provide  support for retired athletes, enhance grassroot  sports Development and advance the potentials of  special athletes.

He assured that ” Yanga Games has the capacity to  raise funds on behalf of the Ministry  of Sports for athletes  Development, endorsement and sponsorship deals for athletes”. 

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Minister of Sports Senator John Owan Enoh assured that the Ministry has total and absolute  confidence  in Yanga Games to deliver on the given mandate.

“Gone are the era when we depended solely  on government  to fund sports  development.  We are partnering with  Yanga Games to bring maximum  benefits  to the athletes and all critical stakeholders.

“We shall give institutional encouragement and support to the Management of  Yanga Games to succeed in this onerous task of rebuilding our sports sub sector.”

Speaking further, Kentebe  said ” We shall raise about 34 Billion in the next four years to assist athletes and improve sports in the country.

“We shall help to develop  grassroot  sports and  sustain youth involvement  through raffle draws, fund raiser and other avenues.

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