MOROCCO made history in reaching the FIFA World Cup semi-finals, the first African nation to get this far in the competition. It wasn’t just a landmark for the north African country, it was a memorable occasion for the entire continent. CAF has been waiting for one of its teams to show the rest of the world that Africa should be taken seriously and Morocco demonstrated that they can now look Europe and South America in the eye.
Morocco’s run to the last four has been no fluke; they beat Belgium in the group phase and overcome Spain and Portugal, the two sides many felt would contend the semi-final in their half of the draw. They deserved it, playing with a discipline and determination that few have associated with African teams in the past. Nobody should underestimate Morocco in their semi-final with France.
1970 – A first World Cup
Allal Ben Kassou, Abdallah Lamrani, Moulay Khanousi, Kecem Slimani, Boujemaa Benkhrif, Mohammed Mahroufi, Driss Bamous, Mohammed El Filal, Said Ghandi, Maouhoub Ghazouani, Houmane Jaris, Ahmed Faras, Abdel Kader El Khiati, Jalil Fadili, Amed Alaoul.
Coach: Blagoje Vidinic (Yugoslavia)
Said Ghandi, a highly-rated midfielder/winger who played for Raja Casablanca. Won 31 caps for Morocco. Houmane Jarir, another Raja player, he scored Morocco’s first World Cup goal against West Germany. His career was curtailed due to a knee injury.
Morocco stunned West Germany in their first group game, Jarir scoring in the 21st minute from close range, shooting high into the net. The Germans didn’t equalise until the 56th minute from Uwe Seeler before Gerd Müller netted the winner 10 minutes from time. Morocco’s second game was a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Peru, who scored three goals in the last 23 minutes in León. Finally, Morocco earned a point with a 1-1 draw against Bulgaria.
1976 – Africa Cup of Nations winners
Mohammed Hazzaz, Mehdi Belmejdoub, Chérif Fetoui, Brahim Glaoua, Larbi Chebbak, Ahmed Abouali, Baba, Abdallah Semmat, Abdallah Semmat, Abdallah Tazi, Abdel Ali Zahraoui, Ahmed Faras, Abdelmajid Dolmy.
Coach: Virgil Mârdârescu (Romania)
Mohammed Hazzaz, agile goalkeeper who won 65 caps for his country and played for MAS Fez. Named as the best keeper in the 1976 AfricaCup of Nations. Ahmed Faras, one of the greatest players in Moroccan football history and the player of the 1976 tournament. Enjoyed a 17-year career with Chabab Mohammédia. Won 94 caps for Morocco.
Morocco’s only Africa Cup of Nations victory was in 1976 when they finished top of the final round in Addis Ababa. They had come through the first stage group with victories against Zaire and Nigeria and a draw with Sudan. In the four-team final group, they beat Egypt and Nigeria and drew with Guinea in the decisive last game in front of 30,000.
2022 – Last four of the FIFA World Cup
Yassine Bounou, Achraf Hakimi, Nayef Aguerd, Romain Saïss, Noussair Mazroumi, Sofyan Amrabat, Azzedine Ounahim, Selim Amallah, Hakim Ziyech, Youssef En-Nesyri, Sofiane Boufal, Yahia Atliyat Allah, Abderrazak Hamdalloh, Abdelhamid Sabiri, Jawad El Yamiq.
Coach: Walid Regragui
Yassine Bounou (Bono), goalkeeper who plays for Sevilla in Spain and won the prestigious Zamora trophy in 2021-22. Made a big impact in Morocco’s run to the semi-final of the World Cup, notably in the penalty shoot-out against Spain. Prior to the semi-final, he had won 50 caps for his country. Hakim Ziyech, Dutch-born winger who joined Chelsea in the summer of 2020 for € 40 million after impressing with Ajax. Has won 48 caps for Morroco. Achraf Hakimi, full back/wing back who plays for Paris Saint-Germain, whom he joined in 2021 for € 60 million from Inter Milan. Has won 59 caps for Morocco and is considered to be one of the best full backs in the world.
With Croatia and Belgium in their first phase group, Morocco were not expected to win through to the knockout stage of the World Cup. A 0-0 draw with Croatia didn’t suggest the Atlas Lions were bound for glory, but a 2-0 win against highly-fancied Belgium, goals from Saïss and substitute Aboukhial, provided one of the early shocks of the competition. After beating Canada, Morocco found themselves topping the group and preparing to face Spain in the last 16. The Moroccans played a very strategic game and their defence, one of the strongest in Qatar, gave Spain no quarter. The game went to penalties and goalkeeper Bono saved two as Morocco won 3-0. Bono was in fine form again in the last eight game against Portugal, who were beaten 1-0, thanks to a first half goal from En-Nesyri. Morocco set a new benchmark for African football and will be looking to create more headlines.
Morocco have bid to host the competition no less than five times and may also throw their hat in the ring for 2030. It must be getting harder to ignore the case for a North African World Cup.