The roar of the Atlas Lions; the secrets behind Morocco’s World Cup success

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Butterflies in the tummy, tensed and anxious; these were the emotions of not only Moroccan fans in the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha but the whole African continent and the Arab world before kick-off.

Morocco were locking horns with Portugal in the quarter-finals of the World Cup – the most important game ever in their history – after seeing off Spain in the Round of 16 of the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

Morocco were the first African country to qualify for the knockout stages of the Mundial in 1986. They have bettered this record by becoming the first nation from Africa to reach the semi-finals of the world’s flagship tournament.

Youssef En-Nesyri gave the Atlas Lions the goal they needed to catapult them to the semis in the 42nd minute through a towering header.

But what has accounted for this historic feat chalked by Morocco? Is it entirely luck?


In 2009, the Royal Moroccan Federation (FMRF) established the national football academy known as the Mohammed VI Football Academy to discover and nurture football talents in the nation with help from European scouts.

With huge backing from King Mohammed VI, the academy in Salé, Morocco has a school, a sports village (including 8 FIFA standard pitches) and a medical centre.

The academy has produced three important players currently in the setup of the Moroccan squad in Qatar. Youssef En-Nesyri, whose goal sent Morocco to the semis and is now the country’s top scorer in the World Cup, is one of them. The two others are Azzedine Ounahi, who has been sensational in the world cup and defender Nayef Aguerd.

The academy has paid off for the Moroccan men’s national team and club football.

Wydad Casablanca are currently the winners of the CAF Champions League while RS Berkane boast as the CAF Confederations Cup and CAF Club Super Cup winners.

In terms of women’s football, AS FAR won the 2022 edition of the CAF Women’s Champions League. The national team qualified for the FIFA Women’s World Cup and the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup for the first time.


He played 45 games for the Atlas Lions as a defender, but returned as a well-refined gaffer to lead Morocco to the climax of its football history. Walid Regragui is his name.

Nicknamed “Rass l’Avocat” which means Avocado Head, Regragui has so far been a genius in the dugout for Morocco.

He has a track record of making history wherever he plies his trade. FUS Rabat, notably known as a mid-table club won their first and only league title under the tutelage of Regragui. He also won the league with Al Duhail SC in Qatar. He then returned to his homeland and won the CAF Champions League and the league with Wydad Casablanca.

With less than 100 days to the World Cup, Regragui was appointed as the head coach to lead Morocco to the World Cup; a decision that many thought was premature.

He has proved his critics wrong. Morocco play as a unit in this World Cup and have conceded just a goal (an own goal) so far in the tournament.

Can Morocco go ahead to book a ticket in the finals of the World Cup and make Africa proud?


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