Magaia's brace gives South Africa first Cup of Nations title at Morocco's expense

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·2-min read
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It was sixth time lucky on Saturday night as Hildah Magaia struck twice to give South Africa a 2-1 victory over Morocco and their first women's Cup of Nations trophy.

South Africa, who had lost their five previous finals to Nigeria, made the breakthrough just after the hour mark on a slick counter.

Bambanani Mbane sent Jermaine Seoposenwe free down the left and she raced goalwards and cut back to Magaia who flicked in confidently to the right of the Morocco goalkeeper Khadija Er-Rmichi.

Magaia doubled the score soon after with a sumptuous team goal involving 10 players which switched play from the right via goalkeeper Andile Dlamini to the left.

Magaia stabbed home after Er-Rmichi failed to gather Karabo Dhlamini's low drive from the left into the box.

The second blow silenced the capacity crowd at the Prince Moulay Abdallah Stadium in Rabat.

Choice

But the South Africans opted for conservation. Knocking the ball round seemed a dangerous choice for a side that can embrace nervousness as rapidly as it can ooze sleekness.

And the policy backfired spectacularly as the defence was carved open and Rosella Ayane scored her first goal of the tournament to give her country hope and raise the fervour of the crowd.

Desiree Ellis's side panicked nine days when nursing a one goal lead against Tunisia in the quarter-final.

That time at the Stade Moulay Hassan, they did not have a partisan crowd of 46,000 against them.

Flustered

And they failed to learn from the lesson. No one kept a foot on the ball and they descended into agricultural defending.

Fortunately for the South Africans, as they thrashed upfield, Morocco, with the seconds ticking away to the final whistle, launched down wind.

It was frantic, furious and fun for the neutral. Far removed from the poised polish of the early stages with both teams trying their best to keep possession and build patiently.

Back then it meant a midfield chess match with space at a premium.

But that was when the night was young.

"The players showed resilience," said Ellis, who picked up the 2022 Caf women's team coach of the year award on Thursday night.

"They wanted the trophy so badly," she added. "We played great football in the 2018 tournament but we did not come home with the medal. I'd like to take my hat off to all the players."

Morocco boss Reynald Pedros hailed his squad for their journey to the country's first Cup of Nations final a week after qualifying for the World Cup for the first time.

"They gave it their best but it was not enough," said the Frenchman.

"I am extremely proud of my team. They have achieved so much. They have honoured the shirt and honoured the supporters."

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