Morocco clinch first Women’s World Cup win to put South Korea on brink of exit

World Cup debutants Morocco claimed their first ever victory at the tournament with a 1-0 win over South Korea in their second Group H encounter on Sunday, all but confirming the Asian side’s exit.

Morocco are 55 places below South Korea in the women’s world rankings, but the African side made an early breakthrough with their first ever World Cup goal in the sixth minute from striker Ibtissam Jraidi.

Hanane Ait El Haj whipped in a cross from the right and Jraidi dived forward to make glance home a deft header that went in at the far post.

Related: South Korea 0-1 Morocco: Women’s World Cup 2023 Group H – as it happened

Park Eun-sun nearly levelled with a diving header of her own at the other end but the forward saw her effort go agonisingly wide of the post, much to the relief of Khadija Er-Rmichi in Morocco’s goal.

Er-Rmichi saw Germany find her net six times in their group opener, but she was hardly tested by the South Koreans, who failed to have a shot on target and struggled to make inroads into the final third as the Moroccan defence stood firm.

Morocco defender Nouhaila Benzina, who became the first player to wear a headscarf at the Women’s World Cup, made some crucial interventions, while she almost scored from a set-piece when she volleyed a snapshot over the bar.

She even took one for the team when she deliberately clipped Ji So-yun, who was racing through on goal on a counterattack with support, accepting a yellow card without protest.

But South Korea could not capitalise from the free kick, which struck the wall as coach Collin Bell stood on the touchline shaking his head in frustration. South Korea’s Casey Phair nearly equalised late in the game, but the 16-year-old, who became the youngest player to take the field in Women’s World Cup history in their opener, fired wide to leave them bottom of the group.

“I can’t believe it, to be honest. We saved the worst two performances in my tenure for the World Cup. I didn’t recognise my own team,” said Bell, who took over in 2019 and guided the team to the final of the Asian Cup last year.

“The reality is we were not good enough in both games. Why that was, we have to analyse in detail. I’m not going to let my emotions take over now, and obviously we’re all very disappointed. The players are much better than they’ve shown in both matches and it really is almost unbelievable that we’ve performed like we have.”

Morocco are now level on three points with Germany and Colombia, who play each other later on Sunday. South Korea have zero points and will be eliminated if Germany avoid defeat.

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