DOHA, Qatar – To advance to the semi-finals, the Atlas Lions must first become a team from the continent. Expectations are high as Morocco’s football team practices to face Portugal, the 2016 European winners, in a World Cup quarterfinal.
Morocco’s victory over Spain on penalties to advance to the quarterfinals sparked celebrations in Qatar, Morocco, the Arab world, Europe, and Africa.
No African team has ever advanced past this World Cup stage, so Morocco is now carrying the dreams of an entire continent and grappling with the weight of history.
After beating Spain, Morocco’s Walid Regragui stated, “At some time in Africa, we have to be ambitious and consider why not win the World Cup, even if it’s going to be hard.”
Exceptional work thus far.
Morocco is well-organized and in good form; they haven’t lost a game at this World Cup and have only given up one goal in their last seven contests.
They have now gone five games without losing in the World Cup, and they have preserved a clean sheet in six of their last seven games overall.
According to Ghana’s Media General Group’s Michael Oti Adjei, “how they’ve built up to this stage has been the most astounding thing.” “They fired the coach ahead of the competition and replaced him with a new one who had a strong sense of tactical discipline.
“We frequently talk about African heads dropping at crucial moments. In the semifinal matchup against Portugal, Morocco must undoubtedly demonstrate that this won’t happen. Regragui has thus far done an outstanding job.
Since Ghana’s well-known run in South Africa in 2010, the continent has not come together and supported an African country on the international scene.
According to Solace Chukwu, senior sports editor at Pulse Sports, “Morocco has actually won the hearts and imagination of Africa with its boldness and acumen.”
The idea that individuals are identifying with Morocco and flying an African flag rather than just a North African or Arabic flag is palpable, even on social media.
Former team captain of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabriel Zakuani, echoes this opinion.
As an African, he remarked, “I am really delighted to see another African nation advance in the tournament.”
They appear to be extremely sturdy and hazardous at the same time. They’ve advanced thanks to Ziyech. If they defeat Portugal, which is very likely, I believe this run has increased respect for African football and will elevate the level of play on the continent.
A pivotal moment
Although Portugal presents a significant obstacle, they are arguably the most conquerable of the remaining teams in the league. It seems like Africa has been waiting a long time for a semi-final spot.
The Selecção das Quinas, though, are no pushovers. When Cristiano Ronaldo’s replacement, Goncalo Ramos, scored three goals, coach Fernando Santos’ decision to leave him out of the starting eleven for the round of 16 match against Switzerland was supported.
It represents the depth and quality of Portugal. They have some of the most talented creative players in the World Cup, like Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes.
Morocco, on the other hand, is extremely concerned about the health of numerous important people in advance of their meeting. Regragui has resisted changing the pack too much thus far in the competition, appearing to have little faith in anything other than his starting XI.
The Atlas Lions appear to have little chances.
The flame of an African dream, though, remains strong. The actions of Morocco are encouraging, according to Tunisian journalist Souhail Khmira, who grew up witnessing a small number of teams dominate the sport. “It’s good to see the cards being turned. All of Africa is rooting for Morocco to shatter the record at the World Cup.
A Morocco victory versus Portugal would be warmly welcomed both in the Moroccan diasporas in cities across Europe and in the North African nation, where their dramatic upset victories so far have united a continent in support of them. But maybe more significantly, it would increase respect for the squad in general as the outsiders who left their mark.