Hopes are high among Arabs and Africans of Morocco reaching the final
Muscat – As trailblazer Morocco prepares to take on France in the second semi final of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 on Wednesday, expectations are higher than ever in both the Arab world and Africa following the jubilant scenes witnessed around the world after the Atlas Lions beat Portugal on Saturday.
Morocco, which now carries the hopes of both continents and shoulders the weight of history – it being the only Arab and African nation to make it this far in a World Cup – has captured the hearts and imagination of people who believe such a performance from a regional team was long over due. But France poses a major challenge to Morocco before they can reach where they want to be – the finals and eventually take home the cup.
With their heroic upsets so far uniting a continent in their support, a Morocco win over France will be wildly celebrated once again across the Arab world and by the Moroccan diaspora in Muscat. But just as importantly, it will deepen the respect for the team globally, as the outsiders who made their mark.
Moath al Saeedi, a Moroccan fan from Khabourah who went to attend World Cup matches in Qatar, said, “I drove to Qatar to encourage the Moroccan team. They have surprised the world with their abilities and determination to win. They dazzled the world with their outstanding play and victory in the penalty shootout.”
Saeedi described Morocco’s victory as victory for all Arabs. “I am confident that Morocco will beat France.”
Muscat-based Moroccan resident Idrissi Nada said, “The semi final will be very difficult. France has strong strikers, such as (Olivier) Giroud, who has scored 30 goals, and (Antoine) Griezmann – 35 goals – among others. But we hope to win because Morocco also has professional players such as (Achraf) Hakimi and (Sofiane) Boufal.”
Morocco, who reached the Round of 16 in the 1986 World Cup, is the only team from outside Europe and South America to make it to this stage.
“Even though the Moroccan coach was raised in France, he loves Morocco more. So, he will do everything he can for Morocco to win,” said Dounia Boufernane, another Moroccan fan in Oman.
Morocco reached the semi finals after beating Spain and Portugal in the knockout stage and has conceded only one goal in the tournament and the French are aware that the Moroccans are more than a strictly defensive team as they prepare for their unexpected World Cup semi final clash on Wednesday.
Hopes are high not just among Arabs but Africans too. Having now reached their first FIFA World Cup semi final, 1976 African Cup of Nations champions have eclipsed the achievements of Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010.
Drake Rukundo, an avid Ugandan football enthusiast, said regardless of the result of Wednesday’s match, Morocco has made history this World Cup. “This reminds us of Pele’s prediction that an African country could win the World Cup by 2000. He made the prediction after Zaire was beaten by Yugoslavia 9-0 in 1974. It’s 2022 but that hope has come alive,” he said.
“That prediction gave Cameron confidence to beat the Mighty (Diego) Maradona’s Argentina in the opening match of the 1990 World Cup. That made Senegal beat France in South Korea in 2002. It’s what saw Morocco beat (Cristiano) Ronaldo and Portugal in Qatar. Whatever happens, an African team will go all the way. Pele will pass on that dream to all Africans and keep it alive,” Rukundo he added.
Like Rukundo, Waleed Sulaim- an, a football analyst with a local radio station based in Tanzania, said, “Yes indeed, I am supporting Morocco as we are Africans and I hope Morocco gets the chance to reach the final. I am very hopeful that they will be in the same form or even better in the se-mi final and eventually the final.”
However, some Arab fans are caught up in between. “I have been cheering for France since I was young. It is my team of choice when it comes to video games as well! I was extremely happy when France won the previous World Cup,” said Ramez al Turk, a senior media relations consultant from Jordan who is based in Qatar.
“So, how can I not cheer for France? But Morocco is representing all of us Arabs now. They need our support, especially in their match against a very strong team like France! I expect a tie!”