Morocco Has So Far Been Excellent In The World Cup, But Their Success Is No Fluke

Morocco have been the first African nation to qualify for the knockout stage of the World Cup in 1986. And they’ve carried out that ‘task’ once more after 36 years.

The Education City Stadium was introduced to a shocking silence as Achraf Hakimi stood over the penalty spot to take his kick in opposition to Spain. It turned into all tensile.

Hakimi waa born in Madrid and he has the burden of Africa and the Arab international on his shoulders, but you will by no means have guessed because the Paris Saint-Germain coolly clipped the ball into the internet and spark off wild celebrations no longer just in the stadium, but also in Morocco and for the Moroccan diaspora.

It was a memorable day for Morocco, for Africa, for Arabs and for all Muslims. The Atlas Lions had roared to stun 2010 World Cup winner Spain and attain the quarterfinals spot of Qatar 2022. The significance of the event was now not lost on head coach Walid Regragui.

“Before it was just the Moroccans who supported us,” he said ahead of the game against Spain. “Now it is the Africans and Arabs.”

For many, it was and still the surprise of the tournament, as the North Africans received their first ever knockout spot at a FIFA World Cup. But how did Morocco get to the final 8 of the most prestigious competition in global soccer?

Many eyebrows had been raised while the Moroccan Federation made a tough decision to sack Vahid Halilhodžić in August 2022, just over 3 months before the start of the World Cup after the Bosnian coach had guided the team through qualifying to Qatar 2022.

But for those in Morocco, it is instead the inheritor to the Moroccan training throne truely taking his vicinity at the perfect time.

Regragui was a tough-tackling defender who, despite being born in France, chose to symbolize the country of his family, notching up forty five caps.

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Since becoming a coach, Regragui has enjoyed success everywhere he has been, leading a mid-table Moroccan membership FUS Rabat to their handiest ever league name.

He had a brief stint in Qatar wherein he won the league with Al Duhail SC, earlier than moving back to Morocco where he also led Wydad Cassablanca to the league and Champions League double in advance this year.

Many Moroccans thought that it could be after the World Cup or in a few years, but none were unhappy when it was announced Regragui would take over the national side less than 100 days before their first game at the World Cup.

In African soccer, Regragui has often been compared with José Mourinho due to his tactical discipline and stellar man-management abilties. Both of those have been depicted in this World Cup.

Morocco has played more than 400 minutes of football at the tournament and negotiated a penalty shootout, and yet the Atlas Lions have conceded just once – and that was an unfortunate own goal against Canada in the team’s final Goup F match.

After the dramatic shootout win against Spain, Regragui was seen jogging to the stands to hug and kiss his mum who was in the crowd.

Regragui is a French-born Moroccan. He has assembled the most nationally diverse team at the World Cup – 14 of the 26 players were born outside of Morocco from six different countries – and has seamlessly integrated this group players from around the world into one coherent unit.

World Cup tournaments can be tough emotionally to navigate – players are away from home for weeks – but Regragui has counteracted that by allowing the players’ families to stay with the team in camp in Qatar.

Hakimi scored the winning penalty as Spain missed all three of their penalties.
It’s not only the players who have had their families with them. Regragui himself was filmed going to the stands to visit his mother Fatima who told Morocco broadcaster Arriyadia how much it meant to her.

“During his whole career as a player and as a coach, I never traveled to watch him,” Fatima said. “I’ve been living in France for more than 50 years now and this is the first competition that I left Paris for.”

But in all of this, the Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FMRF) should also be credited with the Atlas Lions’ success at Qatar 2022.

After decades of footballing mediocrity, the FMRF – with the backing of King Mohammed VI – decided to overhaul the nation’s football structure.

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In 2009 the FMRF opened its national football academy, the Mohamed VI Football Academy – which helped develop current international players like Nayef Aguerd and Youssef En-Nesryi – as well as trying to unearth talent in the Moroccan diaspora by employing scouts from across Europe to flag any eligible youth players in Europe.

The federation also began investing in women’s football, developing football in schools and clubs as well as a creating a national league structure. Funded by the FMRF, Morocco is currently the only nation in the world to have two tiers of women’s football that are both fully professional.

The crown jewel of Morocco’s football investment is the Mohamed VI Football Complex just outside Rabat.

The training complex contains four five-star hotels, eight FIFA standard pitches – one of which is indoor in a climate-controled building – as well a medical facility that includes a dentist.

That investment over the last decade has begun to pay off.

For the first time in history, Moroccan clubs are the holders of the men’s and women’s African Champions League titles as well the men’s Confederations Cup – Africa’s Europa League.

Morocco is also the African Nations Championship champion – a continental tournament where countries put out teams exclusively featuring footballers who play domestically – whilst the girls’s team got here second within the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year and qualified for its first World Cup.

Morocco’s incredible success at the 2022 FIFA World Cup may be the great story of the tournament up to now, but it isn’t always the result of success and grit, but rather proper planning.

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