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Morocco, the team that did not win the World Cup but did win the heart of the entire world

Morocco said goodbye  Qatar 2022 with an honorable defeat against France.  (REUTERS/Molly Darlington)

Morocco said goodbye to Qatar 2022 with an honorable defeat against France. (REUTERS/Molly Darlington)

Morocco left Qatar 2022. But they leave with the honor of a champion without a crown. Nobody even put them as a black horse. Or very few, because after all the consummated success it is easy to get on the boat and stick out your chest. They ruined several pools. They were criticized for playing defensively, but in the hottest match of the World Cup they showed that they have plenty of arguments to attack and put the world champion himself against the ropes.

From the outset, they had to fight for a ticket in a group with two always threatening teams: Croatia and Belgium. They passed first and, as an omen of bad luck, the crossing cursed them with a match against Spain. Nothing was bad enough to have an impact on a team that started coaching in Walid Regragui four months ago. They showed more character than The Red and they advanced to the Quarterfinals that were already historic.

Morocco fans in Dusseldor, Germany, watching the Semifinal match against France.  (REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen)

Morocco fans in Dusseldor, Germany, watching the Semifinal match against France. (REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen)

Yes, they messed with logic. There is talk of processes, long-term plans, methods that must come together in a certain time and that, if they are not fulfilled, can only result in failure. Well, they returned to the bases with time on top: they threw Vahid Halilhodzic and they brought someone who knew the Moroccan idiosyncrasy inside out. Regragui provided the team with the tactical tools to compete against the best, united the group, and even asked the mothers of the players to accompany their children to the concentration.

All in one: motivator, knowledgeable and strategist. There was no room for selfishness in this selection of Hakimi, Amrabat, Ziyech, Bono, Saiss, En-Nesyri and Boufal. Everyone knows them now, in case they weren’t taken seriously before. They beat Portugal with authority and it never bothered them to have Cristiano Ronaldo in front of them. There was no authority that was impossible for them to challenge. And so they reached the World Cup Semifinals.

Palestinian fans west of Jerusalem supporting Morocco.  (REUTERS/Ammar Awad)

Palestinian fans west of Jerusalem supporting Morocco. (REUTERS/Ammar Awad)

Yes, they got hit fast, but they rallied and locked France in their net. They know how to play with the ball and without it. How not to admire them, if they made their entire country shout for them and flood the streets with lights and shouts? Morocco is more than a revelation: it is the materialization of the dream that all football fans have ever had.

Now the challenge will be daunting for the Atlas Lions: to stay on top of world soccer. They will never be seen in the same way again and it is the most normal: They have already made history in a World Cup, and no one will be able to take that away from them. All of Africa saw its best dreams reflected in the Moroccan feat of Qatar. They fought with the soul of Cameroon 1990, Senegal 2002 and Ghana 2010. It was said for many years that the future of this game would be on the African continent. Others said that this premise was destined to fail.

Moroccan fans, in Casablanca, lament the defeat of their team against France in Qatar 2022. (REUTERS / Silvio Castellanos)

Moroccan fans, in Casablanca, lament the defeat of their team against France in Qatar 2022. (REUTERS / Silvio Castellanos)

Today reality prevails: Morocco will finish the World Cup among the four best teams in the world. And they still have the game for third place against another equally honorable rival: Luka Modric’s Croatia. They reached the penultimate day of the calendar and they will continue to enjoy it. Anyone who thinks that a World Cup is only about winning is wasting their time. A World Cup, above all, is built on memories: of something that, many years from now, will remain in our memory and we will presume to have witnessed it. And Morocco is that, an epic reserve that will accompany us all for the rest of our days.

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