The perennial underachievers are lastly hovering at a World Cup.
Morocco are on the verge of qualifying for a World Cup quarter-final, a feat that the crew has by no means achieved in 5 earlier World Cup appearances.
A draw in opposition to World Cup 2018 finalists Croatia was adopted by a shock win over Belgium and a defeat of Canada within the group phases. Instantly, Moroccans began believing, wishing for the dream to proceed.
On Tuesday, the solar rose in Morocco, bringing hope and expectations.
Most cafés in Morocco now are draped in flags and banners. Some have set particular menus and haven’t solely added extra TVs but additionally upgraded the present ones to larger and higher screens, hoping to draw extra patrons.
If followers need to watch the sport at a café, they should go not less than two hours previous to kickoff, or reserve a desk the night time earlier than. With out that, seats are troublesome to seek out.
Cinemas can be screening the match as an alternative of films. Native musicians have been invited to cheer and sing the nationwide anthem with followers.
Jordan crew coach Adnan Hamad, who hails from Iraq, had labelled the Moroccan crew as the “dark horse” of the tournament.
“That crew is taken into account one of the best Arab crew enjoying within the Qatar World Cup. It has 20 skilled gamers from main European leagues. Within the qualifiers, it handed with flying colors and has a significant probability of progressing from the group,” he instructed Al Jazeera earlier than the beginning of the competition.
“I imagine that the Moroccan crew has one of the best set of gamers, and the chance is of their arms to be the darkish horse of the event.”
Qualifying for the World Cup was an enormous deal for the nation however after it did, all eyes have been set on progressing from the group phases.
“I’m scared. Not as a result of I don’t imagine within the crew. All we are able to do is assist and cheer and have religion,” Moroccan supporter Kaoutar instructed Al Jazeera in Marrakesh. “Spain is a robust crew and has achieved rather a lot. However let’s keep optimistic and hope for one of the best.”
One other fan, Mohammed, in the meantime, is extra optimistic: “I strongly imagine that we’ll crash Spain. We’ve got a robust crew that may take Spain and every other crew down and keep within the World Cup. Even when we lose, I’ll nonetheless exit and rejoice as a result of as a Moroccan I’m pleased with the crew. We’re the one crew left that represents Arabs and that’s fairly wonderful.”
For some, together with fan Mehdi, there’s a little bit of superstition concerned.
“I can’t cheer and speak concerning the crew till Tuesday. If somebody asks, I’ll say that now we have no probability in opposition to Spain however deep down, I believe we are able to make historical past. I used this tactic for all earlier matches and look, we’re nonetheless within the World Cup,” he stated.
Nationwide TV channels are airing day by day soccer segments within the information bulletins to indicate the gamers all through their exercises and preparations, dwell footage of them preparing for the match, and interviews with crew officers and relations.
The newspapers are writing concerning the new coach, how he succeeded in constructing the crew and in addition lauding the gamers on how they’ve carried out to date. World Cup fever, coupled with the crew’s displaying, has firmly gripped the nation.
On match day, there are flags in all places, individuals are singing nationwide songs on the streets and screaming midfielder Hakim Ziyech’s identify. Additionally they have a message for Moroccan supporters in Qatar: be as loud and cheerful as potential so the gamers really feel like they’re enjoying in Casablanca.
And that request is being answered in the Gulf.
“This crew is making the hearts of all Moroccans beat as one. The satisfaction, pleasure – and worry – that is one thing we’ve not seen since 1986,” Yasmina Bennani, a Moroccan supporter in Qatar, stated. “To go previous the primary spherical was the primary soccer pleasure for the younger technology and it’s lovely as a result of what’s taking place on the pitch is bringing collectively youngsters of the Moroccan diaspora, born throughout Europe.”
For Boutaina Essadiki, the crew’s efficiency has been a shining mild not just for Moroccans however all Arab soccer followers.
“The win [over Spain] can be a victory for all Arab groups,” Essadiki stated. “I’m so proud to be a Moroccan proper now. And given the state of affairs, even when I wasn’t a Moroccan I’d wish to be one to affix in and rejoice.”
Again in Essaouira, a port metropolis within the western Moroccan area of Marrakesh-Safi on the Atlantic Ocean, an enormous display screen has been arrange in a well-known sq. referred to as Place Moulay Hassan to telecast all of the nationwide crew’s video games.
A video shared after the win over Belgium confirmed followers and police officers dancing collectively.
Moroccans internationally, and a few impartial followers, can be hoping the dancing continues.
“Most individuals didn’t think about us that we are able to beat Belgium and qualify. However take a look at us now, we’ve certified for the final 16 and can hopefully win in opposition to Spain and proceed the journey to the ultimate,” Sami, a Moroccan supporter, stated.
“We’ve got each proper to dream. We’re referred to as the Atlas Lions for a motive.”