The remarkable dream run of the Atlas Lions has come to an end. Defending champions France defeated Morocco two goals to nil in the semi-final of Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022. Les Blues broke the deadlock early in the game with a strike from fullback Theo Hernandez after five minutes of the play. Morocco’s Azzedine Ounahi tried pulling it back with the long-range effort in 10th minute, but French goalkeeper Lloris managed to keep it out. Teams went into the halftime with only one goal separating them.
Even in the second half the resilient Walid Regragui’s men were never short of chances, but just they couldn’t convert them. Substitute Kolo Muani pinned the last nail in the coffin by tapping in second goal for The Blues in the 79th minute of the play from Kylian Mbappe’s a deflected shot.
Despite the loss, Moroccan fans in the UAE lauded the side for their extraordinary hard work and commitment.
“We are proud of our team, they put us the map of footballing world”, said Morocco fan Rachid Mourazak. “We went as favourites into the game against world champions…that itself is some achievement for our nation”, he then added.
Atlas Lions were the first ever Arab-African nation to play in the last four at the world cup, the journey has been indeed beyond belief. They topped the group by eliminating European giants Belgium, later defeated the mighty Spain in the round of 16 and then went on defeating formidable Portugal in the quarter-finals.
French Moroccan resident Mariam Marir said she felt torn but proud. “I knew France was going to win but I was so proud of Morocco,” she said. “They came this far in the tournament, and they managed to unite Arabs all over the world. The Lions were really on fire, and I am so proud of their game. It was not at all an easy win for them. Morocco fought hard till the very end. It could have easily been a 2-1. There were so many missed opportunities, but I am happy.”
Zaki, who has been to Qatar and cheered this Moroccan team from the stadium said, “We couldn’t have asked for more from the boys and the coach, they delivered a lifetime performance for us”.
Many football pundits have been saying that Walid Regragui should be the coach of the tournament. He took over just 81 days before the World Cup started. Undoubtedly, this historic run has etched memories on the souls of every Arab and African national.
Another Morocco fan from Tunisia, Taoufik while speaking to Khaleej Times said, “This team’s journey has inspired our entire region, they made us believe in something extraordinary. It is incredible how people did not even count on us at the beginning of the world cup and now we were the favourites to beat the champion side”, he added.
Morocco controlled the tempo of the game throughout with more than 55% of ball possession and completing more than 500 passes in 90 minutes against the defending champions.
Zaina, Moroccan expat residing in the UAE expressed her remorse after the defeat, “We deserved to win tonight, our boys played their heart out. A couple of decisions didn’t go our way…foul on Boufal was a clear penalty instead the referee penalised our attacker which was disappointing”.
Twitteratis got their fingers talking after the Mexican official Cesar Ramos penalised the Moroccan attacker Soufiane Boufal within the French penalty area in the first half which seemed far-fetched to many.
Regardless, the Atlas Lion’s unforgettable run spared no effort to entertain and deliver at the biggest stage. Fans across the globe hailed this Arab-African nation for their eye-catching display.