Morocco has made history by reaching the quarter-finals of the Qatar 2022 World Cup. It is the first time that the North African nation is reaching this stage in their last six appearances.
Prior to 6 December 2022, the country’s best outing was in 1986 when they reached the round of 16. Not only have they made it to the round of 8 in Qatar, but they are also the only remaining African and Arab nation in the World Cup.
Prior to the game, most analysts believed that Spain would come out victorious. However, Morocco went into the game knowing what was at stake.
Instead of trying to engage the Spaniards in a possession game, the Moroccans sat back, defended well, and tried to catch the Spaniards on the counter. So, while Spain had all the ball possessions, Morocco had more nervy moments in the final third.
The match ended goalless at the end of full-time and extra time and had to come down to penalties to decide the winner. Sabiri stepped up for Morocco and scored the first penalty kick, setting up the nation for what would later be a historic win. The Spaniards hit the upright once and had their two other kicks saved by the superb Moroccan goalie, Yassine Bounou.
Morocco’s right back Achraf Hakimi stepped up and scored the decisive spot kick, sending the goalie to the left while he slotted it in at the middle. It ended 3-0 in favor of Morocco. The Atlas Lions will face Portugal in the quarter-finals. Portugal demolished Switzerland 6-1 to book a tie with Morocco in the quarter-final.
Interesting statistics from Morocco that should scare any opposition
Heading into the last eight, Morocco has shown that they have what it takes to go all the way. Although largely perceived as underdogs compared to the other teams that have reached the quarterfinals at Qatar 2022 World Cup, Morocco presents some statistics that should give future opponents Goosebumps.
No team has scored against Morocco in Qatar 2022
Soccer pundits are already predicting that Portugal will come out victorious over Morocco. However, Portugal will need to be more creative and decisive in the final third to break down the Moroccan defense.
Since Walid Regragui took over as the head coach of Morocco, the team has only conceded one goal—and that was an own goal in the game against Canada. Morocco has 3 clean sheets from their four games at the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
So far, they are the only team in Qatar 2022 that has not conceded a goal from an opponent player. Their compact and organized defensive line did enough to shut the door on Luis Enrique’s team. Portugal will have to work on a strategy to break down the Morocco defensive line.
Morocco topped their group
When Morocco (ranked 22 in the world as of October 6, 2022) was placed in Group F which also has Croatia, Belgium, and Canada, no one ever envisioned that they would make it out of the group. Most soccer pundits predicted that Belgium and Croatia will easily make it out of the group.
However, after a goalless draw with Croatia, Morocco went ahead to defeat Belgium and Canada to emerge the winner of that group with 7 points. The second-ranked team in the world, Belgium, did not make it out of the group.
Morocco has the support of two regions
Qatar is the first World Cup host to exit the tournament without winning a single game. However, the country can now throw its support behind the Moroccan team, being the only Arab nation that is left in the tournament.
Apart from the host and Arab nations, Morocco also has the support of all African nations. While Senegal and Morocco made it out of their group, Senegal has since crashed out of the tournament after losing 3-0 to a stronger English side. Senegal’s exit means the entire weight of the continent now lies on Morocco.
Every soccer fan knows the important role of the supporters in the morale of the players. It is not surprising that they are often regarded as the 12th player on the pitch. After the game against Spain, a Spanish fan told Aljazeera that the fans were hostile to the Spanish team which might have contributed to the Spaniards missing all their penalties.
No doubt, the Moroccan team played the game but the entire African continent shared the euphoria of their victory. It didn’t take long for #Morocco to become the trending topic on Twitter as Morocco becomes the fourth African team to ever make it to the quarter-finals.
Morocco’s national team flew the Palestinian flag after their victory over Spain. It can be recalled that Palestine has been under occupation by Israel which has left the people impoverished for many years. The Moroccan national team is subtly calling for the freedom of Palestine.
Morocco still has a chance of making it to the semi-final
Portugal made a statement with the 6-1 trumping of Switzerland. However, judging from how all the teams have played so far, Morocco appears to have a more compact and disciplined defense than Switzerland.
Prior to losing 6-1 to Portugal, Switzerland lost by a lone goal to Brazil and conceded 2 against Serbia. It is unlikely that Portugal will find the back of the net with ease when they play against Morocco.
The Portuguese will likely be on the offensive like Spain and Morocco will want to replicate their tactics against Spain and hope to find the net through counterattacks. If the match ever gets to the penalties, the odds will tilt more in Morocco’s favor—from what we have seen.
However, the Portuguese will go into the game with confidence knowing that no African team has ever won a quarter-final game at the World Cup. Peradventure Morocco breaks that jinx on Saturday, they will be the first African nation to do so.
If the Atlas Lions find a way beyond Portugal, they will either meet France or England in the semi-finals. While Africans anticipate that the Moroccan team can go all the way, for now, the focus and preparation would be on beating Portugal.
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