Qatar W.C 2022 - Achraf Hakimi and Morocco into history with a slot in quarters

Sixteen years after 1970, Morocco returned to Mexican soil to become the first African team to cross the first round of a World final phase by finishing as the head of its group after beating Portugal 3-1.

On December 6 2022, The Atlas Lions of  Hakim Ziyech beat Spain on penalties to reach the quarter-finals of Qatar 2022 and set up a clash with Christiano Ronaldo's Portugal.

When Achraf Hakimi stepped up to take the decisive penalty tonight, he was not only bearing the hopes of a country but the weight of his past too. For Hakimi, who plays for Paris Saint-Germain, was born in Madrid, Spain, in 1998 to Moroccan parents. He even joined Real Madrid's youth setup in 2006 from Colonia Ofigevi at eight years old, then in the early part of his career. But he chose to represent Morocco at the international level right from the U-20 level.

The odds were stacked against Morocco while facing the 2010 World Cup champions Spain. Both teams were closely matched throughout a tense game, with Spain having more of the ball but Morocco creating the better openings. 

The last African and Arab side left standing at the first World Cup held in an Arab country, Morocco were intensely backed and their fans greatly outnumbered Spain's.

Morocco were closest to scoring in extra-time, testing Simon, who made a fine save with his legs to deny Walid Cheddira after he broke down Spain's left flank. Despite pressure from Spain in the final moments before penalties, they could only manage to hit the post. The match stayed 0-0 at the end of the extra-time.

Having been sent on for the shoot-out, Pablo Sarabia struck the post from Spain's first penalty, after Abdelhamid Sabiri put Morocco ahead. Carlos Soler and Sergio Busquets were foiled by Yassine Bounou, while Hakim Ziyech scored, and Simon denied Badr Benoun, before Hakimi netted a chipped 'Panenka' penalty against the country of his birth to ignite wild celebrations.

After the match, Hakimi went on to hug his mother in the stands.

In 1986,  Badou Zaki, Mustapha El Haddaoui, Aziz Bouderbala, Mohamed Timoumi and Abdelkrim Merry Krimau, to say the least, led coach José Faria's team past Portugal and into African football history. Their next clash with the same nation could be one for the ages.

Published By Claude B Djaquis

On 07/12/[email protected]:17