FIFA Qatar World Cup 2022: A run by Atlas Lions to remember for ages :
"Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened."
This a quote every football fan could relate to for the Moroccan football team after France ended their beautiful journey by beating them 2-0 in the second semi-final.
Theo Hernandez scored the opening goal of the game in just 5th minute of the game when the rebound from Kylian Mbappe's second effort fell for him, and he superbly sent it to the back of the net. It's worth mentioning that this was the first goal Morocco conceded from an opposing player this World Cup, as the only goal they conceded before this match was their own goal.
In the 20th minute, captain Romain Saiss, who was a doubt due to his ongoing injury, could no longer play and was subbed off. Morocco didn't hold back and continued pushing forward. In the final five minutes of the first half, they created many chances but were very unlucky not to get on the scoreboard.
Noussair Mazraoui subbed off at the break as his ongoing injury didn't allow him as well to play any more of that game. In the 79th minute, Kolo Muani scored his first international goal with his first touch on the ball after coming on the pitch just 44 seconds ago, replacing Ousmane Dembele. It was his first international goal which he scored through Mbappe's effort. Morocco created several chances in the ending minutes but couldn't find the final touch and failed to test Hugo Lloris, who made his 19th appearance at the World Cup, equalling Manuel Neuer's record as the shot-stopper with the most games in the history of the mega event.
But talking about this match would be an injustice to the Morocco team, which progressed to this stage after knocking out many World-class sides and is yet to play one more game against first-semi-final loser Croatia in the third-place playoff.
Morocco started their World Cup campaign with not many expectations attached to them from European football fans especially. They started in fashion by holding the previous World Cup runner-up and their opposition in the next game, Croatia, at a goalless draw.
In their second group stage game, they snatched all three points from FIFA ranked #2 side Belgium by beating them 2-0. In their third & last group stage fixture, they secured three more points against Canada as they overcame them 2-1. With two wins and one draw, they topped their group stage table with 7 points, above Croatia and Belgium.
In the round of 16, they faced European giants Spain and knocked them out on penalties by 3-0 after 0-0 of 120 minutes, where Bounou made some great saves and didn't concede a single sentence.
In the quarter-finals, they came against another European giant, Portugal, who they knocked out by 1-0, with Youssef En-Nesyri scoring the only goal of the game in the 42nd minute. In injury time, Cheddira received his second yellow card of the match and was sent off, leaving his side to play with ten men. However, they survived and qualified for the semi-finals, becoming the first African to make it that far.
Though they failed to qualify for the final, they still have one more game to play for the third position. They'll face Croatia, their group-stage team, with whom they drew 0-0 in their opening game of the mega event.
There are many reasons this World Cup is being called the "Greatest Ever Tournament" by many, and one of the primary reasons behind this belief is the performance of Atlas Lions in the mega event. They did, which nobody expected them to do so. They topped their group table and knocked out three World-class sides by playing outstanding football under Regragui, a manager they appointed just three months ago.
With their performances, the whole world came to know about the hidden jewels like Sufyan Amrabat, Romain Saiss, Azzedine Ounahi, Jawad El Yamiq and many others, as there is no wonder Moroccan people will get to see their players signed by Elite European clubs and playing for them as some of them are already linked with some top clubs in the world.
That being said, more than breaking records, they set many records with their unbelievable run. They gave unlimited memories to all the Moroccan people, people from Arab countries and the whole of Africa and introduced their culture and talent on the biggest stage.