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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Dream of World Cup final is over but Moroccans hail heroes

"They played a great game but luck wasn't on our side," said supporter Oussama Abdouh in Casablanca.

They may have fallen just short of reaching the World Cup final, but Moroccans on Wednesday hailed their team’s historic run as it ended with a 2-0 defeat to reigning champions France.

“They played a great game but luck wasn’t on our side,” said supporter Oussama Abdouh in Casablanca.

“Still, we stood up to the title-holders, that was great.

Read more: Ronaldo admits World Cup dream has ended

“Beyond the World Cup, this team made us dream until the end, and just for that, I raise my hat to them.”

But for Hakim Salama, the 2-0 defeat to France was too much.

“We missed the opportunity of the century,” he said.

Rain lashed the capital Rabat on Wednesday evening and the atmosphere was far from the exhilaration of the historic victories that brought the Lions of the Atlas to within sight of a World Cup final — the first Arab or African team to ever get so far.

This time, the car horns and drummers were muted.

“The national team has been performing miracles since the start of the World Cup,” Rachid Sabbiq, a street trader in the working-class Derb Sultan district of Casablanca, said before the match.

“It doesn’t matter whether they win or lose — they’ve won the respect and admiration of all Moroccans, and that’s priceless,” he said.

Sabbiq had swapped his usual fare of sweets to sell Moroccan flags.

Despite the loss, ruler King Mohammed VI sent his “warm congratulations” to the whole team for having “honoured the Moroccan people”, according to the country’s national news agency MAP.

The king also conveyed a congratulatory message to French President Emmanuel Macron by telephone post-match, the news agency said.

– ‘They make us dream’ –

One of the oldest neighborhoods in Casablanca, Derb Sultan was a bastion of resistance against colonial authorities when the North African kingdom was a French protectorate from 1912 until 1956.

It also gave rise to one of Morocco’s top teams, Raja de Casablanca, and is the birthplace of legendary striker Mohamed Jarir (alias “Houmane”), who in 1970 became the first Moroccan ever to score in the World Cup.

“In this neighbourhood, we love football, so of course the national team’s victories make us dream,” said teenager Mohamed Nadifi, a teenager whose idol is winger Sofiane Boufal.

All over Morocco, shops have been selling team jerseys and flags.

Read more: Croatia shocks Brazil in World Cup shootout drama

“Not only have the Lions made us happy but they also allowed us to get business going again” despite rough economic times for many Moroccans, said trader Khalid Alaoui.

Touria Matrougui braved cold and torrential rain to buy jerseys for her four nephews.

“They held the Moroccan flag high, and for that, we can never thank them enough,” she said.