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Morocco lives a dream in Qatar. Here are 5 things to know about her World Cup run: NPR


Moroccan Achraf Dari and Walid Chedira celebrate after winning 1-0 during the quarter-final match between Morocco and Portugal at Al Thumama Stadium on Saturday in Doha, Qatar.

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Moroccan Achraf Dari and Walid Chedira celebrate after winning 1-0 during the quarter-final match between Morocco and Portugal at Al Thumama Stadium on Saturday in Doha, Qatar.

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The World Cup’s elite teams often talk about dancing – finding their rhythm and joy in the pressure crucible. But Morocco’s players say they are living a dream – and that their career in Qatar has surpassed the dreams of any other African or Arab country.

“We can dream, why not dream of winning the World Cup?” And Walid Rekragui, coach of the Moroccan national team, said after his team sent Portugal.

“We had a dream, of course,” said team captain Romain Sayes. “Dreaming is free. So we can dream. But, then, it’s different to do it. We put a lot of energy into every game – it’s hard physically and mentally, but in the end it’s very good.”

Despite ranking 22nd in the world, Morocco are so far unbeaten in Qatar, knocking out the European heavyweights to set up Wednesday’s semi-final against defending champions France.

Fans are excited about Morocco’s historic move

The win over Portugal 1-0” is one of the stories you’ve heard about s One Thousand and One Nights“Today I lived the dream… Thank you, Qatar, thank you, thank you,” said one jubilant fan in a televised interview.


Fans from Morocco cheer victory in the stands after the quarter-final match between Morocco and Portugal at Al Thumama Stadium.

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Morocco fans were among the loudest in Qatar, ready to take on the attacks of some of the game’s best players, from Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne and Croatia’s Luka Modric to Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo.

The victory also set off massive celebrations in Morocco, as people packed the city’s streets to cheer on the national team.


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Morocco’s defense has been extinguished

The Moroccan defense did not allow any of its opponents to score in Qatar – the only goal they conceded came with a solitary own goal against Canada. He has yet to lose a World Cup game, setting the tone early after starting play with a 0-0 draw with 2018 runners-up Croatia.

The Moroccan defense line is based on Achraf Hakimi, a multi-talented defender who was born in Spain and plays professionally for the famous French club Paris Saint-Germain. Among his friends and fans is French star Kylian Mbappe, Hakimi’s teammate at Paris Saint-Germain, who he said earlier this year Hakimi is the best right-back on the planet.

And goalkeeper Yassine Bono, also known as Bono, has been holding onto the ball, making 39 saves so far, according to FIFA. Crucially, he saved two of the three penalty shootouts taken by Spain, after the two teams finished playing 0-0.

The team has shown that it can win in many ways, from defensive contests to creating chances through open play and winning penalties.

The coach says that Morocco is the “Rookie” of the World Cup

Regragui said his team is “the Rocky Balboa of this World Cup” after the Atlas Lions became the first African team to reach the semi-finals with a stunning win over Portugal on Saturday.

“When you watch rocky“You want to support Rocky Balboa because of his hard work and commitment and I think we are Rocky Balboa at this World Cup.”


The Moroccan national team players lifted their coach Walid Rekragui after winning their quarter-final match against Spain at Al Thumama Stadium on Saturday in Doha, Qatar.

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The Moroccan national team players lifted their coach Walid Rekragui after winning their quarter-final match against Spain at Al Thumama Stadium on Saturday in Doha, Qatar.

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Like the famous boxer that Sylvester Stallone portrayed, Morocco absorbed the punishment of world-class athletes, all while refusing to lose. Also like Rocky, the team shows the toll that effort takes.

Several key players have suffered injuries in Qatar, including captain Sais, 32, who left the game with Portugal on a stretcher, due to a hamstring problem. Other injuries include centre-back Naif Ajord, 26, who was reported to have been hit in the thigh or knee, and Naseer Mazraoui.

Morocco’s performance stunned the football world, especially after the national team lost Amine Harit, the talented attacking midfielder. Harit fell due to a serious knee injury just before the start of the World Cup, while he was playing for his professional team, Olympique de Marseille.

In the absence of Harit, other players carry the load, from the steadfast midfielder Sofiane Amrabat, 26, to Youssef Al-Nusairi, 25, the striker who soared in the skies of Qatar to score the winning goal against Portugal.

Attacking midfielder Hakim Ziyech, 29, was all over the place, rising into defense and disrupting opponents while also sending 20 crosses and putting eight shots on target, according to FIFA statistics.

Morocco has done (some) this before

This is not the first time that Morocco has won its group and defeated Portugal. The team made a historic breakthrough in 1986 – the World Cup, at which it found itself in an unenviable group of England, Poland and Portugal.

But none of the European teams could find a way to defeat Morocco, and they won the group to advance to the last 16 – becoming the first African team to do so.


Morocco were unlikely group winners at the World Cup, but finally fell to West Germany during the 1986 tournament in Mexico.

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Coached by Brazilian Jose Faria, the 1986 Morocco national team underwent extensive training to ensure they were a cohesive unit, and one that was ready to play in the heat of host Mexico: they trained in Monterrey for 40 days. But the team finally got out when West Germany managed to win 1-0.

Morocco’s success in the Qatar World Cup is being promoted in the North African country and beyond. After the Atlas Lions beat Portugal, the leaders of Niger, Chad, Djibouti, Turkey and other countries offered their congratulations, according to the Moroccan government.

Morocco has brought home two dual national players

At this year’s World Cup, Morocco “is the only team in the tournament with more than half of its 26 players born in other countries,” Quartz reports.

It is not unusual for a player to represent a country in which he was not born. In 1938, in the third part of the World Cup, more than 12% of athletes wore national colors different from their home country, according to the Institute for Migration Policy.

MPI pointed out that 17 Moroccan players out of 23 were born abroad in the last World Cup, most of them in Europe. Sixteen of the 23 athletes on the Algerian national team for the 2014 World Cup were born in France, according to the Sport and Nation Research Project at Erasmus University Rotterdam.

The numbers are a stark reflection. European nations that for decades elevated their talent-rich rosters with elite players with roots in former colonies now see top players choosing to represent their ancestral home – even if the athlete was born in Europe.

Morocco’s stunning victory over Portugal takes on even greater significance in this light. After all, Portugal achieved its best ever World Cup finish – third place in the 1966 tournament – with the help of several players born in colonial Mozambique, including the legendary Eusebio da Silva Ferreira.

Aiding the shift towards ancestral nations is a 2004 FIFA rule change, making it easier for eligible players to change their affiliation to national teams even if they have already played for a country’s national youth team. Such was the case for Morocco’s Ziyech, who played for the Dutch youth team before deciding to help Morocco in pursuit of their World Cup dream.