For their first participation in the Football World Cup, the Moroccans have achieved their first objective: to pass the group stages. “If we can make a big splash and qualify in the eighth, we will not miss it,” announced Reynald Pedros, the national coach, on July 23, on the eve of the entry into the running of the selection of the Cherifian kingdom in the competition.
Ranked 72nd nation in the FIFA rankings, the Atlas Lionesses, recent finalists of the African Cup of Nations, made history by finishing 2nd in their group, leaving the Germans on the floor, one favorites of the tournament, who had nevertheless crushed them (6-0) in the first match. Imitating the men’s team, which caused a sensation by reaching the semi-finals of a World Cup at the end of December in Qatar for the first time in the history of African football, the Moroccans are applying to carve out a place in the planetary elite. round ball.
A unique campus in Africa
This emergence among the 16 best nations in the world is not the result of chance. The arrival in April 2014 of the ambitious president of the Moroccan Football Federation, Fouzi Lekjaa, changed everything. He was able to capitalize on the strengths of the country which opened the very prolific Mohammed VI Football Academy in 2009. This campus, unique on the African continent, which extends over an area of 18 hectares and is made up of five poles for the supervision of apprentice footballers, has contributed to the development of Moroccan football, training a myriad of talents such as Olympique de Marseille midfielder Azzedine Ounahi.
This policy has benefited women’s sections. For them, the adventure has only just begun. The “Development Plan for Women’s Football in Morocco 2020-2024” has multiplied by six the annual budget devoted to the training of girls – from one to six million euros – to deploy, on a large scale, the practice of football from the youngest age.
The mark of Reynald Pedros, former virtuoso of FC Nantes
The appointment, three and a half years ago, of Reynald Pedros at the head of the Atlas Lionesses marks another turning point. The technician then arrived, crowned with two consecutive doubles in the league and in the Champions League won with Olympique Lyonnais in 2018 and 2019. Imbued with the training methods of La Jonelière and his mentor Jean-Claude Suaudeau, the former virtuoso of FC Nantes and the France team, now 51 years old, patiently plowed this wasteland of football, composing an unpredictable team, capable, according to his French counterpart Hervé Renard, “of projecting itself very quickly, a a bit like the Brazilian team, with very technical players who go deep into the depths quickly”.
Moroccan women have on their side recklessness, youth and an irrepressible desire to shake up the world hierarchy. Bringing together a majority of local players, licensed to FAR Rabat, like their captain Ghizlane Chebbak, 32, the Moroccan selection has been reinforced by a few binationals (Sarah Kassy de Fleury, Messina Salma Amani or Tottenham striker Rosella Ayane).
A “caliber” match
Passing this obstacle will not be easy for the Habs. Hervé Renard, who knows the Moroccan environment inside out for having led the men’s team between 2016 and 2019, expects a match “of caliber, of a high level like the one against Brazil”.
Wendy Renard’s teammates, who leave with the advantage of experience at a very high level, will not have to be content to approach this meeting seriously. They will need a lot of temperament and recite a score that will have to approach perfection. As a reminder, the premature elimination, Sunday August 5, of the Americans, double defending champions, against Sweden in the round of 16 shows that the competition is more open than ever.