‘Breath of fresh air’: Haiti qualify for first Women’s World Cup

Haiti beat Chile to qualify for first FIFA World Cup tournament, which will be hosted by New Zealand and Australia.

Haiti's Nerilia Mondesir celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates
Haiti's Nerilia Mondesir celebrates scoring a goal with teammates [File: David Rowland/Reuters]

Haiti’s national football team has beaten Chile 2-1 to secure the country’s first-ever appearance at a FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Melchie Dumornay scored twice during Wednesday’s match to ensure 55th-ranked Haiti will now play in Group D of the 2023 Women’s World Cup alongside England, China and Denmark.

Prior to the 10-team qualifying tournament in New Zealand, midfielder Danielle Etienne told ESPN “there’s a lot of unhappiness in the country and football is the joy”.

Haiti has been hit with a raft of crises, with the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in 2021 adding to the country’s insecurity amid a series of natural disasters.

Most recently, the United Nations human rights chief appealed to the international community to consider deploying a specialised armed force to the country to restore order as accounts of killings, raping and pillaging committed by influential gangs, who control large swaths of the country, have soared.

“Being able to qualify for the World Cup would be major,” Etienne said. “We want that for the country as a whole, to have a breath of fresh air and kind of step aside from anything going on.”

Haiti is the first of three teams to qualify for the finals during the intercontinental playoff.

Portugal will play Cameroon in the Group A playoff later on Wednesday and Paraguay will play Panama on Thursday for the last places in the 32-team tournament which will be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.

Haitian players shed tears of joy when the final whistle blew. They had defeated Senegal 4-0 in their opening match.

On Twitter, Haiti’s football federation hailed the “unforgettable evening for our Grenadières in Auckland”.

Star player Dumornay, who was recently signed by seven-time Champions League winners Lyon, won the race to a through ball in first-half stoppage time to give Haiti a 1-0 lead at the break.

She added another goal in the eighth of 11 minutes added on by the referee after Chile captain Christiane Endler had saved Nerilia Mondesir’s attempt from the penalty spot.

But Maria Jose Rojas scored in the 11th minute of stoppage time to keep Chile’s hopes alive – making a final few moments of nerve-racking play.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies