Morocco has celebrated this Thursday its second pass to the round of 16 in a soccer World Cup, which it had not achieved for 36 years, as if it were victory in a final. After defeating the inexperienced Canada, the Atlas Lions see an old dream come true, this time as the undefeated leaders of group F, above teams with a historic service record, such as Croatia and Belgium. “Spain or Germany, whoever it is, now we don’t care who we’re dealing with,” boasted merchant Ahmed, 61, after closing his shop in the central Hassan district of Rabat, in a boast of enthusiastic feeling of confidence of Moroccans in their national team. La Roja, second in group E, will finally be their rival next Tuesday in a clash between neighbors on both sides of the Strait.
The streets of the capital remained deserted since early afternoon, amid the general closure of educational and work centers. The cafes concentrated those who had not yet been able to return to their homes. “A new coach (Walid Regragui), with leadership and clear ideas and a squad full of seasoned players in the European leagues, these are the keys to the new team,” pontificated the official Mohamed, 45, before a television screen. in the cafeteria of the central railway station of Rabat Ville. Dozens of travelers hurried the celebration of the plays before running towards the platforms with a smiling face.
Several of the Moroccan players, framed in La Liga, know Spanish football very well. This is the case of Youssef En-Nesyri, Sevilla striker, who has become the first Moroccan to score in two final phases by scoring his team’s second goal against Canada. The Sevilla player already scored in the 2018 World Cup in Russia, precisely against Spain.
Along with established players, such as the Madrid-born Achraf Hakimi (now a star of Paris Saint-Germain), and others with a promising profile, in the case of Sofyan Amrabat (in the ranks of Fiorentina), the Moroccan team counts In addition, with athletes established in the League, such as the Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, Bond, among others. They will meet again like four years ago, this time in a life or death match.
It didn’t take long for the party to reach the administrative heart of Morocco. Despite the rain, on a cold and gray autumn day, thousands of fans gathered to celebrate the national team’s historic milestone. Groups of girls with the red Moroccan flag painted on their cheeks waved national cloth banners on Avenue Mohamed V, the capital’s main axis. “It is the victory of all”, chanted exultant groups of young people while caravans of vehicles arriving from the periphery blew their horns rhythmically to celebrate an achievement that has resisted almost four decades.
The 0-0 draw against Croatia offered the first good impressions for the fans, who were electrified, intoxicated with enthusiasm, by the victory over Belgium. The convincing win against Canada confirmed the good omens. Despite having conceded his team’s first goal on Thursday (in an unfortunate own goal move), the former soccer player Regragui seems to have aroused the consensus of all the fans as a coach. His bold and uncomplicated game model has offered cash returns against teams that presented themselves as fearsome rivals. He will now have to face Spain, world champion in 2010.
Moroccan soccer players have also had a certain field factor in their favor, supported in Qatar by thousands of fans who have traveled to the Gulf from their own country or from the diaspora of emigration in Europe. Tens of thousands of Arab fans also feel the colors of the Atlas Lions as their own after the elimination of Qatar itself, and those of Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, despite their respective victories against France and Argentina.
Germany was seen as a historical rival in Morocco. “Well, it would be better to meet Spain in the round of 16, who are neighbors,” the shopkeeper Ahmed finally qualified, after recalling that it was the German team that got off the Moroccan team in the round of 16 in Mexico 86. His wishes have been fulfilled.
The massive celebration in the center of Rabat, this time also accompanied by fireworks, brought warmth back to the autumn afternoon, in a markedly peaceful atmosphere. The festive images were repeated in European cities that have large Moroccan communities. The so far successful performance of the Atlas Lions has raised the levels of jubilation on a multinational scale, beyond regions, generations, place of residence or social classes. Morocco has started to get used to winning. And enjoy the celebrations.
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Source: EL PAIS