After Morocco beat Spain on Tuesday night in the round of 16 of the 2022 World Cup at Doha’s Education City Stadium, it was the biggest party in the world.
Most of the 44,000 people in the crowd couldn’t stay calm after Achraf Hakimi’s panenka penalty kick gave Morocco the win.
Moroccans had parties in Rabat, Marrakesh, and almost every other capital city in Western Europe.
Even King Mohamed VI joined the happy crowds.
After the players had danced in the locker room, coach Walid Regragui said something important to the press.
The statement showed how African countries thinking about the World Cup has changed. And it was fitting that it came from Regragui, who has changed how African coaches think.
He learned how to coach football on the continent by coaching in Morocco. He is also part of the first CAF Pro Licence class of 2018. The first group of coaches to get football’s highest coaching degree entirely on the continent.
Rwgraui is young, smart, a citizen of the world, brave, and a pan-Africanist. He’s the best thing about African soccer.
Aliou Cissé from Senegal, Djamel Belmadi from Algeria, Radhi Jaidi from Tunisia, and Benni McCarthy from South Africa are all examples of the new kind of African coach.
At the World Cup in 2022, African coaches led all five African teams for the first time. This wasn’t by chance.
Can Africa win the 2022 World Cup?
In November, the Cameroon Football Federation’s president, Samuel Eto’o Fils, said that he thought Cameroon would beat Morocco in an all-African final.
People from the same country as him immediately made fun of him online, but his statement made me curious.
Why couldn’t an African team win a World Cup in the past?
It starts with the people who came here to live.
There were seven World Cups between 1930 and 1962. In 1934, though, Africa only sent one team from Egypt.
This is because the countries of Western Europe took over the continent in a very violent way. So the people who used to run Fifa also didn’t want to automatically give Africa a spot in the tournament.
Africa didn’t go to the World Cup in England in 1966. Because it wanted Fifa to know that it wanted a guaranteed spot at the tournament, which it got in 1970.
In the 30 years that followed, African teams pulled off some big wins. Algeria beat West Germany, and Portugal beat Morocco.
Still, Fifa has moved slowly, giving African countries only two spots in 1982, three in 1994, and then five in 1998.
So, Africa has yet to win a World Cup because it has yet to be too many of them.
Some say that the last 12 years have not produced good results, but who’s to say that more people wouldn’t have led to more competition and better results?
They could have used the money from the World Cup prize to improve local football all over Africa.
More places for Africa in 2026
Nearly 100 years after the first World Cup, held in Uruguay, Africa will finally get more spots. In 2026, Africa will have 9.5 places, which will help make the world more equal.
The 2022 World Cup also showed us that not having enough people in charge of qualifying slots and hosting rights can have a big effect.
South Korea made it to the tournament’s semi-finals they helped host in 2002. At the same time, Ghana was one penalty kick away from making it to the semi-finals in South Africa in 2010.
Is it a coincidence that Africa and Asia’s best finishes ever happened when they hosted the tournaments for the first and only time?
So far, the 2022 World Cup has shown that probably not.
This year, three Asian teams made it to the knockout rounds, and Africa’s best performance came at the World Cup in Qatar.
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With 24 points from their 15 group stage games at the 2022 World Cup, they beat the old record of 15 points set in 2002.
Cameroon beat Brazil in the World Cup, the first time by an African team, and Tunisia beat the current champions, France. And Morocco was the first African country to win a group. They did this by getting seven points.
It is indeed a breath of fresh air to see huge crowds of Saudi, Moroccan, and Tunisian fans cheer on their teams to historic wins.
The perfect ending to this “World Cup of upsets” would be for Morocco to win by making Regragui’s words come true.
Because of how well they defend and how good Yassine Bono is as a goalkeeper, they will always have a chance in tournaments.
Morocco thinks it is only 270 minutes away from being the world champion. It might be time for us to believe them, too.