Doha: For Morocco and Africa! Morocco, which won 1-0 at the expense of Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo on Saturday, in the quarter-finals of the 2022 World Cup, entered football history by becoming the first African country to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup.
Cameroon’s Roger Milla in 1990 and Senegal under El Hadji Diouf in 2002 came very close, and Ghana, led by Asamoah Gyan, came close in 2010, when Luis Suarez conceded a penalty shootout to deny him a semi-final spot.
On Saturday, Morocco finally succeeded, at the expense of remarkable courage and iron defense, in a wonderful course that saw the national team of Croatia, vice-champion of the world, and Belgium, third in the previous World Cup, before successfully competing with two great teams. World soccer powers, Spain and then Portugal, are in the knockout stage.
“Ça y est, ils l’ont fait !!!! Bravo le Maroc for cet exploit. Live l’Afrique !”, an immédiatement tweeted Didier Drogba, legend of African football qui n’a jamais pu approcher cet accomplissement historique avec la Ivory Coast.
At El Thomama Stadium, Moroccan players ended up scattered to every corner of the pitch at the final whistle, exhausted, upset, not coming back, wrapping themselves in red flags on the green star for those who managed to stay upright.
Ronaldo is crying
Then they knelt before the noisiest stand, but they were all, to salute the accomplices in the feat: the crowd came to support them. “I told the players before the match that we have to write history for Africa,” coach Walid Regragui said after the match.
Meanwhile, television footage showed Cristiano Ronaldo falling into the stadium hallway, shaken to tears. Still a substitute at the start, he entered the Ballon d’Or five times, thus tying the world record for the number of selections, with 196.
Even for a record star like him, it didn’t matter. He’s leaving his fifth World Cup without getting close to the trophy, and even though he’s 37, he knows he’ll probably never win it.
In any case, the heroes of the day were Moroccans. The first is the scorer Youssef Al-Nusairi. In the 42nd minute he jumped very high with a cross from Yahya Atiyatalla, higher than Ruben Dias, and took advantage of Diogo Costa’s poor run to score.
Then Morocco defended. He did almost nothing else but did so with courage, strength, and without panic. Despite the absence of their defender Nayef Ajord, the Atlas Lions held everything back with their feet and headers.
Joao Felix tried three times, Bruno Fernandez, who hit the crossbar (45), then at the end of the match, Rafael Leao, when Ronaldo’s presence in the area was an additional pain for the Moroccans, he tried hard. But goalkeeper Yassin Bounou released everything, including when his team played with 10 after Walid Shadira was sent off.
Anyway, to score a goal for the Lions in this tournament, you have to be… Moroccan. The only goal Morocco has conceded since the start of the World Cup has already signed with Aguird on a goal against his unlucky camp.
Saturday’s victory is also the victory of Walid Al-Rakraki, who arrived at the helm of the team instead of Wahid Khalilodzic less than three months before the start of the World Cup, and who made it a formidable machine despite the absence due to injury. Amin Harit, one of its main assets.
Marseillais tweeted “Awesome bro! DIMA MAGRIBBBBBB (Vive le Maroc, Ed)”.
The Moroccans are physically scarred and their captain, Romain Saïss, had to leave the field on a stretcher. But they went down in history and carried it. And now they are waiting for the fall of France, the fall of England (2-1)! For the first African final.