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Appreciating the Underdogs

Jamaica girls Coverphoto

As the FIFA Women’s World Cup continues, a few fan favourites have been eliminated in the Round of 16. Nigeria, Jamaica and Morocco, all considered underdogs in their respective groups, made waves when they advanced past the group stage. While their World Cup dreams may have ended, this time around, soccer fans will remember their historic achievements for many years to come.

Here’s a look back at each nation’s journey. 


Nigeria team



Nigeria has the most World Cup experience out of the three aforementioned teams. The Super Falcons are one of seven countries to play at every World Cup, and they are the only African team to appear in every iteration of the tournament since its debut in 1991. Nigeria’s best result came in 1999 when they advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to Brazil. 

Nigeria was ranked 40th in FIFA’s women’s soccer rankings heading into the tournament, and they were awarded a spot in the Group of Death–Group B–that is. In the group stage, Nigeria faced co-host nation Australia and reigning Olympic gold medalists Canada, along with Ireland. Many people thought it would be unlikely to see Nigeria advance out of the group stage. 

The Super Falcons surprised many when they held Canada scoreless, ultimately settling for a draw and winning 3-2 against Australia. Nigeria never lost a game in the group stage. It was even more impressive when the team held England scoreless in regular time, and penalty kicks would decide both teams’ fate. Though Nigeria ultimately lost, the country showed it can compete with the top dogs. 

In another milestone for the country, Nigerian legend Onome Ebi made history when she became the first African woman to play in six World Cup tournaments, and upon her exit, she didn’t rule out playing in another World Cup. 


Jamaica team



Advancing past the group stage and into the knockout stage is a tough task for any team competing at the World Cup, but just getting to the biggest soccer tournament in the world is also challenging. It’s something the Jamaican team knows all too well.

The Reggae Girlz disbanded in 2008 after the Jamaica Football Federation cut funding for the women’s team while continuing to fund the men. They were revived in 2014, and Cedella Marley, yes, daughter of Bob Marley, became the team’s Global Ambassador. However, in 2016 the team was disbanded again. With the help of C. Marley, the team rose from the ashes and qualified for the 2019 Women’s World Cup, becoming the first Caribbean nation to do so. 

When Jamaica qualified for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, it became the first Caribbean nation to make a second consecutive appearance at the tournament. Though, getting to Australia and New Zealand wasn’t easy. Jamaican player Havana Solaun’s mother, started a GoFundMe to raise money for the group’s expenses. Currently, over USD 75,000 has been raised. 

Despite the team’s obstacles, Jamaica persevered through the group stage, grabbing second place in Group F. They held both France and Brazil scoreless, managing a draw against both and securing a 1-0 win over Panama. Jamaica even advanced over Brazil, ranked eighth overall in FIFA women’s soccer rankings. The team did not concede a goal for 322 minutes during the tournament until Columbia scored in the 51st minute, and Jamaica eventually lost 1-0 in the Round of 16.

Their appearance in the knockout stage is the first time Jamaica has advanced past the group stage for both the women’s and men’s teams.

“Governments and everybody cut the bullcrap, it's time to step up and support women's football,” Jamaica manager Lorne Donaldson said. 


Morocco team



For the first time in history, Morocco qualified for the FIFA Women’s World Cup. They became the first Arab and North African nation to qualify for the tournament. Just making it to the World Cup stage was already a big victory for a country that has only recently accepted women’s soccer. In fact, the Royal Moroccan Football Federation pays its players, coaches and staff salaries to prove soccer is a livable career for women.  

Coming into the tournament, the Atlas Lionesses were ranked 72nd in FIFA’s women’s soccer rankings. Yet, after an impressive qualifying showing on home soil, where Morocco reached the finals at the Women's Africa Cup of Nations, it seemed the country was destined for a strong World Cup performance. 

Morocco was placed in Group H with powerhouse Germany along with Columbia and South Korea. The Germans were easily the toughest competition the country had faced, and they fell 6-0 in their opening game. However, the determined Moroccan team proved how much they wanted to advance and won against South Korea and Columbia, getting them out of the group stage.

If they wanted to continue playing out this Cinderella story, Morocco would have to beat powerhouse France. While the team ultimately lost 4-0 to France in the Round of 16, they proved the Moroccan women’s national soccer team deserves respect. 


Hijab at World Cup


Off the pitch, a Moroccan player produced a groundbreaking moment for the tournament when defender Nouhaila Benzina became the first player to wear a hijab at the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Something hijab wearers will remember forever. 

All these teams made the soccer world proud with their accomplishments throughout the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. All eyes are now set on Olympic qualifying to see whether or not these teams will advance and get another shot at representing their country on the sports world’s biggest stage.