Could have done better after so much possession, say coach Jatoba and scorer Jhonson
Hanan came from Holland, Ahmed from France. They were in the sextet that had flown in from different European nations— Belgium was another country mentioned by Hanan—and Morocco to support their daughters in the under-17 women’s World Cup. “We flew to Mumbai and then here,” said Hanan. One in the group showed a photograph of the Jagannath temple which they had visited. “For luck,” he said.
Such is the impact of their men’s team that in the one-fourth of the planet that doesn’t have water, there are supporters for the country which plays football in canary yellow shirts. The point was made by Brazil coach Simone Gomez Jatoba while explaining why they haven’t made the semi-finals of this competition and once couldn’t even qualify.
It was no different at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday. Minutes into the afternoon’s game, a pocket of young girls began clapping and chanting “Brazil, Brazil”. The Moroccans replied in kind, banged on the chairs to compensate for their lack of numbers and booed when Brazil left at half-time. But neither parental support nor divine intervention was enough in the first match of Group A.
Morocco’s No. 9 Samya Masnaoui’s lob in the first minute had Brazil goalkeeper Leilane arcing back to tip it over but that was their best chance. Inside one minute, Brazil replied through their No 9 Jhonson, top-scorer with nine goals in the last South American championship which they won at a canter. Then she was tackled. Morocco had no reply when Lara found Jhonson, playing on the shoulder of the last defender, with a neat forward pass. An easy volley made it 1-0.
Given their domination—after 20 minutes Brazil had completed 120 passes to Morocco’s 30 and after 73 they had 16 shots, four times that of their opponents with five on target— it worried coach Jatoba that the celebratory huddle in the technical area happened only once. Part of that was also because, despite Brazil having 68% possession, goalkeeper Louisa Derbali denied Jhonson from a one-on-one situation and made at least three other good saves in the second half. It was her heroics in the tie-breaker against Ghana, when Derbali saved two shots, which brought Morocco here after they erased a two-goal deficit in the double-header.
“Their goalkeeper had a great game,” said Jhonson, speaking in the mixed zone. “But we could have been better.” Jatoba agreed saying “we had a lot of possession and should have done more in attack.” But the coach was happy that they could start with a win and that the players coped well with the “very hot and wet (humid) conditions.”
Playing their first finals, Morocco protected their goal better after the interval. But their attempts to feed Said Hajar, who had replaced skipper Yasmine Zouhir as the lone striker, was akin to six proud parents cheering in a crowd that officially had 4,243 in the stands.