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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Morocco Emerges Victorious, Experiences Delayed Celebration

More than an hour had passed since Anissa Lahmari scored the goal that placed Morocco ahead, the one that seemed like it would give the country its first ever Women’s World Cup victory.

Staff members clustered around a phone as Germany blasted balls upfield, attempted to weave passes through a stout South Korean defence, and lofted optimistic ones over it. If Germany scores a goal, it will go to the next round of the World Cup, and Morocco’s slim chances of doing the same would be dashed. The clock kept ticking away, and then it was over.

Morocco triumphed against Colombia, 1-0. No, Germany did not tie 1-1 with South Korea. And that’s it; that’s all it took, after all those minutes and all that waiting: Morocco, a squad playing in its first World Cup, had won two straight games after losing both of their first two. And it was clearly at a loss as to what to do.

In the match against Germany, the Moroccan team disbanded their huddle as soon as the referee sounded his whistle. They hurried out in pursuit of an embrace. Immediately, they took off in search of their companions. In a few cases, the runners had no particular destination in mind.

Of fact, Morocco was already the victor. Being the first North African team to qualify for the Women’s World Cup and the first team to feature a player with a hijab was an accomplishment in and of itself. However, Morocco was looking for more than just a seat at the table.

It was one of eight new teams to compete in this year’s extended competition, and its players were unknown even to most Moroccans until they qualified at home in July. In its qualifying trip, it had gained admirers and respect, but even its coach realised that the next stage would be significant.

Now that they had it, Pedros was at a loss for action. As his players and coaching staff celebrated their victory, he broke down in tears on the pitch. The athletes bowed their heads as a show of respect. Many others hugged each other. Pedros was in the middle of everything, hugging everyone and no one in particular.

When the Moroccan men’s team advanced to the World Cup semifinals, the country erupted in celebration at home. It was only seven months ago. As a result, the country’s women’s team may soon get widespread support.

On Thursday morning, Casablanca’s cafés were packed with men calmly watching the game. given the day began, Morocco’s chances of advancing were slim, given Colombia topped their group and Germany was largely predicted to follow them there. Fans were initially pessimistic, but they began to feel optimistic after early goals from South Korea and Morocco (Lahmari hammered in the rebound of a botched penalty kick for the first goal shortly before halftime) against Colombia.

Men at a café were checking their phones to see the latest Germany score. Only a few people prayed out loud.

The pressure increased as the squad edged closer to a surprising win and an even more unexpected possibility: advancing out of the group stage at their first World Cup. Kenza Haloui, 34, quit her job in Nice, France, to watch the game alone while chatting with her relatives in Morocco, a country across the Mediterranean Sea.

However, the postgame celebrations were very subdued, consisting only of quick cries of excitement and some honking of automobile horns. After that, individuals go about their day as usual.

However, if the celebrations were restrained, the following game might be an emotional roller coaster. Morocco will play France on Tuesday in the round of 16. Fans in Casablanca and Marrakesh and hundreds of other cities throughout North Africa and Europe flocked to the streets in December for the men’s World Cup because of this very clash. As a result of France’s victory, the hopes of the Moroccan men’s squad were dashed.

Dan O'Brien
Dan O'Brien
I am a journalist for The National Era with an emphasis in sports.
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