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Can Morocco win the World Cup?

Sensational Morocco have arguably been the story of the World Cup, combining canny collective defensive displays with coiled attacking and clinical finishing to reach the semifinals in style.

Since their first finals in 1970, the underdogs in the 2022 FIFA World Cup final four had only one appearance in the Round of 16 to show across five tournaments — and even on that occasion, they only won one game.

Morocco won as many games as they had in their entire World Cup history by beating Canada and upsetting Belgium in the group stage, but it was still a surprise when they ended what is likely to be Cristiano Ronaldo’s final tilt at the trophy by ousting Portugal in the quarterfinals.

Having also beaten Spain in their first knockout match, Morocco are on a formidable roll. Here’s how they could become the first African nation to win the most prestigious prize in football.

Can Morocco win the World Cup?

The performances Morocco have produced to progress this far are no fluke. Their record of four clean sheets in five games is a return on their blueprint of defensive solidity, steered by a tactician in Walid Regragui, who is known as the Moroccan Pep Guardiola but admires the pragmatism of Diego Simeone and Carlo Ancelotti, according to The Analyst.

A 49-year-old who only began his impressive club coaching career eight years ago, Regragui has proved that the man he replaced in September, Vahid Halilhodzic, was right to suggest that Morocco could shine at the finals.

Sevilla striker Youssef En-Nesyri scored the winners against Canada and Portugal, while Hakim Ziyech has recaptured the scintillating form that caused Chelsea to buy him from Ajax and goalkeeper Yassine Bounou proved his ability to keep penalties out in the victory over Spain.

Why are there so many Morocco fans at World Cup?

There are more than 3,400 miles between Morocco and Qatar, yet this tournament has come to feel like a neighbourhood gathering for the millions along that route now fiercely behind the Atlas Lions’ march through the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Everyone else alive in the World Cup has been there, done that or desperately wants to do it again. All of the other countries involved have won the tournament, with the exception of Croatia, who reached the final in 2018.

Walid Regragui Morocco
Getty Images

Morocco have become the team of the Arab world, wildly cheered by their many passionate fans who have made the trip to Qatar but also by thousands from other Arab nations who revel in one of their own reaching the semifinals for the first time and would love to see the Atlas Lions take this even further, where only South American and European teams generally tread during the World Cup’s modern era.

Who are Morocco’s best players?

Picking out individual performers is tricky when Morocco have been reliant on all of their players peaking at these finals, but Ziyech was the nearest player they had to a superstar before the tournament and has bristled with electric trickery and willing defensive work, rewarding Regragui for summoning him from the international wilderness in one of his first moves as manager.

Achraf Hakimi is another player blessed with abundant pace to help Morocco mount lightning attacks, not to mention the ‘Panenka’ penalty with which the right-back helped his nation knock out La Roja.

Fiorentina’s Sofyan Amrabat has been linked with Liverpool after appearing to tirelessly perform the work of at least two midfielders at times, and livewire Sofiane Boufal – who spent four years at Southampton before joining French club Angers – has thrived out wide with his speed key to the team’s counter-attacking style.

 

Morocco’s path to World Cup final

Stage Opponents Result
Group Croatia 0-0
Group Belgium 2-0
Group Canada 2-1
Round of 16 Spain 0-0 (3-0 pens)
Quarterfinals Portugal 1-0
Semifinals France TBC
Final Croatia/Argentina TBC

Only a handful of teams were longer odds than Morocco to win the tournament in April 2022, according to odds from Sports Interaction, who rated them at +25000 — level with South Korea and Ghana and slightly less likely to triumph than Japan.

Their odds rapidly tumbled as their unbeaten run developed. Before the quarterfinals, their price had been slashed to just +4000 with BetMGM.

Morocco were outsiders at that point and bookmakers still make them the least likely to win the tournament in the exalted company they now keep. They will not mind that one bit.

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