Saturday, June 3, 2023

Insignificant World Cup playoffs? Moroccans think otherwise

Doha, Qatar – This is the first of three MSs in action on the opening day of the World Cup 2022, which the world, football fans and those plotting those moves are expected to at least still be among the call-outs.

Messi and Mbappe can wait. Moroccans will take center stage on Saturday hoping to end the fairytale race in Qatar with unprecedented achievements.

Morocco will take on Croatia in the Qatar 2022 third-place playoff at the Khalifa International Stadium.

Croatia failed, or better, their 2018 encounter where they lost to France in the final.

Meanwhile, the Moroccan has soared to unprecedented heights, winning millions of hearts and gaining followers faster than a new pop sensation on Instagram in a historic run to the Final Four.

For a team not used to winning much, especially at the World Cup, the sight of victories over Belgium, Canada, Spain and Portugal gave hope to its followers.

Moroccan players were disappointed after losing to France in the semi-finals [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

After defeating Belgium, Morocco were expected to make it to the last-16. Expectations rose when they defeated Spain. Fantasy gave way to belief after defeating Portugal. For a team that first angered their opponents, then worried them, then stunned them in the end, gained as much momentum as they rolled down a hill as they eyed the final.

Until they encountered France. At the Al Bayt Stadium on Wednesday, the dream didn’t turn out the way Morocco wanted, perhaps because of the introduction of a new football, the opportunity or just the difference in skill between the two sets of players.

Despite the heartbreak, Moroccan fans are looking forward to a triumphant end to their World Cup, which has already been an extension of a lifetime’s dream.

“Whatever happens now, there will be no going away from what they have done, they have made history,” Omar, who came to Doha from Casablanca for the World Cup, told Al Jazeera.

“This [the World Cup campaign] Started with Croatia, it will end with Croatia. i hope we beat them this time [the group stage match ended 0-0], I hope we end well. But whatever the case, we’re very proud of the team; We are fully behind him and we are supporting him.”

Moroccan fans
Moroccan fans enjoy every minute of their team’s show at Qatar 2022 [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

A French masterclass on the pitch ensured the Atlas Lions would finish no higher than third in the World Cup. But they can finish third, a last-place finish that was unthinkable for the 22nd-ranked team at the start of the tournament.

“Winning matters. The team didn’t make it to the finals, but it didn’t give up.” “The performance of the team has changed the mindset everywhere. There is a winning mindset now and it is refreshing to see. A win on Saturday will make a big difference at home.”

Saturday’s win means a lot to Iman, a Moroccan who lives in Paris.

“It may not seem like much, but getting third place is really important to us and means a lot because it shows that Morocco’s journey to the World Cup, as historic as it was, was not just luck but the result of The effort of the players and the belief of the supporters,” she said.

“It matters to me,” said Ilham, a Moroccan national living in Qatar. “I want to see them win third place. They deserve it. They’ve made us very happy and I want them to be happy.”

For some, the defeat against France failed to spark Morocco’s run to the last four where they became the first team from Africa to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup.

“It’s football, that’s how it works,” Moroccan supporter Fatima said after Wednesday’s 2-0 defeat. “But we are really proud of the team. Moroccan football has completely changed now. It is not a loss, no way. We are winners.”

Moroccan fans celebrate in the stands [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Yasmina, a Moroccan-Qatar resident, thinks it would be “wonderful and honourable” to win third place.

“We have already won a lot during this World Cup: pride, unity, solidarity and momentum,” she said.

“But I think the pressure is less and the tension is less on Saturday. I would love for Morocco to beat Croatia but no matter what happens they are my champions.”

With the amount of football, competitions and other events in life, most forget the loser of the World Cup final, let alone the third-placed team. Losing a semi-final is heartbreaking enough, but putting away the memories and preparing for another match that won’t let you live your dreams again can be demanding on the mind and body.

However, for Moroccan fans, a win on Saturday would be the end-of-the-year bonus that nobody asked for from their boss.

Times of National
Times of National
Times of National To give more information about the latest happenings, news related to happenings in the country and abroad a casual understanding of the latest technology products and gadgets, celebrity news and gossip, latest movie news, sports, and cricket scores all you need Always ready to fulfill whatever else is becoming a part of our life nowadays.
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