FIFA World Cup: Morocco against all odds - Eastern Mirror
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FIFA World Cup: Morocco against all odds

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By Inakavi Kasho Updated: Dec 15, 2022 2:14 pm
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France’s Marcus Thuram, left, and Morocco’s Sofyan Amrabat challenge for the ball during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between France and Morocco at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. (AP/PTI)

Dimapur, Dec. 15 (EMN): Morocco defied all odds at the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar, becoming the first African nation in history to reach the semi-final of the World Cup, beating the likes of football giants and powerhouses such as Spain, Portugal and Belgium along the way.

Their performance has been exceptional, rallying the African nations and the Muslim world behind its back in what may be considered the greatest underdog story in the history of the World Cup.

Nicknamed ‘the Atlas Lions’, Morocco impressed in their group matches by finishing top of the group, which included Croatia, Belgium and Canada.

The defensive unanimity of the Atlas Lions and the tactics by their manager Walid Regragui proved key to their successful campaign in the tournament.

Morocco’s World Cup campaign started with their group match against Croatia, which ended in a draw.

A 2-0 win against Belgium, one of the top FIFA ranked team and the ‘golden generation’, supposed to win the Euro and World Cup, put the Atlas Lions in the driver seat of their group.

In their last group match, Morocco beat Canada 2-1 finishing top of their group with 7 points, 2 wins and a draw.

Morocco’s Youssef En-Nesyri, right, celebrates after scoring his side’s first goal during the World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between Morocco and Portugal, at Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022. AP/PTI

Morocco followed that up by defeating 2010 World Cup winners Spain and Euro 2016 champions Portugal in the knockout stages.

In the Round of 16, Morocco held Spain to a 0-0 draw in regulation time forcing the match to penalty kicks. Morocco won 3-0 sending Spain home.

It may be mentioned that in the match, Spain possessed 77 percent of the ball, while Morocco possessed only 23 percent.

In their quarter-final match against Portugal, a header by En-Neysri right before half-time was enough to send Portugal home and the Moroccans to their first and Africa’s first World Cup semi-final against France, the current World Cup champions.

Doha: Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo reacts after teammate Pepe missed a chance to score during the World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between Morocco and Portugal, at Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022. AP/PTI

In the semi-final, France ended the fairytale run of the Atlas Lions in the tournament beating them 2-0.

An early goal from Theo Hernandez’s in the fifth minute gave France the lead and Randal Kolo Muani wrapped up matters in the 79th minute ending the dream fairytale story of Morocco.

Morocco will now play against Croatia for the third place on Saturday (Dec. 17). Fun fact, Morocco and Croatia played the first match of the FIFA World Cup 2022 against each other and will end their campaign in the tournament against each other.

What Morocco has achieved deserves credit and will be retold for years to come.

89898991
By Inakavi Kasho Updated: Dec 15, 2022 2:14:06 pm