By Joel Dubber
PERTH (Reuters) -Debutants Morocco stunned Colombia 1-0 in their final group match in Perth on Thursday to reach the last 16 of the Women’s World Cup at the first attempt along with their opponents.
The 72nd ranked Moroccans scored through Anissa Lahmari’s toepoke after a saved penalty at the end of the first half but their passage was only secured after South Korea held twice champions Germany to a 1-1 draw in the other Group H match.
The Moroccan players and coaches huddled together on the pitch waiting for confirmation of the result from Brisbane, exploding in delight when word came through that the final whistle had been blown at Lang Park.
“The game this evening was fantastic. It was fantastic for lots of different reasons. I would even say that it is the prize for the talent of this team,” winning coach Reynald Pedros told reporters.
“We’ll do everything we can to go to the next stage. Our objective is not to stop now, we need to go further.”
Colombia topped the group with six points, bettering runners-up Morocco on goal difference, while Germany and South Korea depart the tournament.
Morocco, who were thumped 6-0 by Germany in their opener before beating South Korea 1-0, move on to meet France in Adelaide and Colombia play Jamaica in Melbourne on Tuesday.
The two teams generated chances in the first half, but it was only in stoppage time when Colombia’s Daniela Arias clumsily fouled forward Ibtissam Jraidi in the penalty area that Morocco had a genuine scoring opportunity.
Las Cafeteras keeper Catalina Perez dived to her left to stop Ghizlane Chebbak’s spot kick but midfielder Lahmari nudged the ball into the net in the ensuing goalmouth scramble.
Colombia dominated play in search of an equaliser after the break, with Daniela Montoya and Lorena Bedoya Durango getting shots away in the 59th minute.
Morocco goalkeeper Khadija Er-Rmichi found herself in the thick of it again in the 72nd minute when she tipped teenage striker Linda Caicedo’s shot over the bar.
A frenzied finish saw end-to-end action, but the Arab nation held on to continue their fairytale start to their first World Cup campaign.
“We’ve learned another lesson,” said Colombia coach Nelson Abadia.
(Reporting by Joel Dubber in Perth; Editing by Nick Mulvenney and Pritha Sarkar)