Copy of 2023-07-23T085344Z_260809532_UP1EJ7N0OPH6I_RTRMADP_3_SOCCER-WORLDCUP-GER-MAR-PREVIEW-1690111420645
Morocco's Nouhaila Benzina with teammates during a training session at the Lakeside Stadium in Melbourne, Australia on Sunday. Image Credit: Reuters

Melbourne: Morocco captain Ghizlane Chebbak says they are not at the Women’s World Cup to make up the numbers and are ready to shoulder the responsibility of being the first Arab country to take part as they prepare to make their debut on Monday.

Morocco, who will kick off their campaign against Germany, are one of eight sides making their debut in the expanded 32-team women’s global showcase, but Chebbak says their aspirations stretch beyond being happy to be here.

“We are not here just to make up the numbers, but to compete,” Chebbak said at a press conference on Sunday.

The Atlas Lionesses secured their spot by finishing runners-up at the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations. Chebbak was named Player of the Tournament and was the joint top goalscorer.

“We are honoured to be the first Arab country to take part,” she said.

Big responsibility

“We feel that we have to shoulder a big responsibility to show a good image, and to show the achievements that the Moroccan football team has made in terms of progress by qualifying. This is a great milestone for us and we hope that our match with Germany tomorrow will pave the way for other matches.” Morocco could not have a much tougher opponent than second-ranked Germany, who were the first team to win back-to-back World Cups in 2003 and 2007. Die Nationalelf have lost only one of their 24 group-stage matches at the tournament.

Morocco coach Reynald Pedros said his squad — ranked a whopping 70 places below Germany — are looking forward to the challenge.

“They all know they’re here at the World Cup,” Pedros said via an interpreter. “They all know it’s going to be their first game ... But the message for them is that it is something that is extremely positive; it’s going to give us so much experience.” Nouhaila Benzina will also become the first player to wear a hijab at a senior women’s tournament. The wearing of head covers for religious purposes was first authorised by Fifa in 2014.

While Germany will be on a mission to make up for losing to England in last year’s European Championship final, coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg warned that it will not be easy; the women’s game has never been more competitive.

“All the games are tight, women’s football teams have come ever closer,” she said. “All the countries coming here are not only proud to be at the World Cup, but they absolutely have the quality to play here and to pose problems.” Germany could be missing key players Marina Hegering and Lena Oberdorf, who are both injury doubts.