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Historic reception for Morocco's Atlas Lions on homecoming

by Moyo Roy
10 Jan 2023 at 16:33hrs | Views
Following a World Cup performance that was well above the North African country's wildest dreams, Morocco's national football team returned home to a hero's welcome.

The team landed at Rabat-Sale International Airport late on Tuesday evening, dressed in coordinated navy-blue suits, and boarded an open-top convertible bus for their victory lap across the city, passing through November 16 Square, Chellah Square, Barid Square, and King Hussein Square. Rabat's Mohammed V and Hassan II avenues were flooded with thousands of spectators wearing team jerseys and waving national flags to welcome the returning football stars.

To add to the festivities, several supporters set off flares, drummed, sang, chanted slogans, and danced on the streets. Many bands playing folk music participated in the celebrations and voiced their support through musical performances. The football players were spotted waving, singing, and laughing with fans who went to great lengths to show their support for the team.

In order to get closer to the top of the bus and express their enthusiasm, many fans climbed trees or anything else they could find, while others chose to get on rooftops to get a bird's-eye view of the action below. At least 8,000 police officers were reportedly dispatched to ensure everyone's safety. It was also announced that King Mohammed VI of Morocco would host the team at the palace in Rabat to commemorate their tremendous and "historic accomplishment."

Morocco became eligible to compete in the FIFA World Cup for the first time in 1970, and on their second visit to the tournament in 1986, they had their most successful showing to that point, advancing all the way to the round of 16. However, 2022 has been Morocco's most successful campaign. By virtue of their triumph in the CAF African Qualifiers, they earned a spot in the 2022 FIFA World Cup and were placed in Group F alongside Croatia, Belgium, and Canada.

When the Atlas Lions faced off against the number two ranked Belgium in the group stages, they shocked the world with a 2-0 victory at Al-Thumama stadium. They showed great composure in the knockout stages, eliminating 2010 champions Spain 3-0 in a penalty shootout following a scoreless draw. Moroccan goalkeeper Yassine Bounou made two penalty saves, and a game-winning penalty kick from Achraf Hakimi sent his team to the quarterfinals for the first time in the tournament's history.

The Atlas Lions blazed ahead, defeating 2016 European champions Portugal in the quarterfinals with a surprise 1-0 win that was never a favourite among POLi betting sites. Morocco's victory over Portugal was a major upset for Cristiano Ronaldo, as it ended Portugal's World Cup campaign. Youssef En-Nesyri, a forward for Morocco, soared to a height of 2.78m (9ft1) to score the game-winning goal with a header.

As a result of their loss against Croatia in the third-place match, the team ultimately placed fourth. They also established a new benchmark by winning their sixth consecutive game in the FIFA World Cup without suffering a single loss.

The road to Qatar wasn't easy for the Moroccan national football team, which has now climbed up from its 22nd place in the FIFA rankings to claim the 11th position leaving behind USA, Switzerland, Germany, Mexico, and Uruguay. Walid Regragui, coach of the Atlas Lions, said his squad "fought" to earn a spot in the FIFA World Cup 2022 and that they intend to come back even stronger in four years. When asked by reporters about Morocco's performance, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said that the nation played "terrific football" and insisted that the team's performance must be celebrated.

Source - Byo24News