Morocco fans dreaming of last 16 spot after brilliant Belgium win

Atlas Lions on the verge of World Cup's last 16 after upsetting the odds in Qatar

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Jubilant Morocco fans felt the love of the Arab world as their national team caused another World Cup shock by stunning Belgium's golden generation of stars.

The Atlas Lions were roared to a remarkable 2-0 victory by a raucous crowd inside Al Thumama Stadium in Doha on Sunday, leaving their supporters daring to dream of more glory in Qatar.

The well-deserved win — sealed by two second-half goals — was the North African country's first in the tournament for 24 years.

Sitting behind Group F leaders Croatia on goal difference only, they know three points against already eliminated Canada on Thursday will secure a place in the knock-out stages for the first time since 1986.

Beating Belgium was 'extra special'

The momentous win against a team ranked second in the world was made even sweeter by Morocco's strong links with Belgium.

About 500,000 Moroccans live in the European country, making up one of its largest groups of expatriate workers.

Filali Said, a Moroccan who was in Doha with his son, said the stunning success had united the nation.

"This is a huge victory for a lot of Moroccans. There are a lot of Moroccans who live in Belgium, so this one felt extra special," he said.

"I came here with my son and it has been a really wonderful experience.

"A lot of the Moroccans are here together. We flew in from all parts of the world and this whole week has been like a celebration.

"Sunday just feels like the cherry on top."

A 'beautiful dream'

Amin Fares, 40, the general manager of a communication agency in his homeland, flew to Qatar to take in the match with his brother and sister.

“It was a crazy day, we never expected to be at four points after two matches against one or two of the best teams in the world,” he said.

“We know we have great footballers and so many talents in our team but we were expecting a draw."

He paid tribute to the red-hot atmosphere inside the stadium, with spectators from all over the region cheering on the Moroccans as if they were their own team.

“I never expected all this Arab love," he said. "It was mind-blowing to receive so many messages from Arab friends. We felt the love and the respect here in Qatar.”

Mr Fares is hoping Morocco and Saudi Arabia can keep Arab ambitions alive in the competition, with both having their destiny in their own hands with one group match to go.

He said: “Hopefully our team will continue to bring a happy ending to this soccer story with the Saudi team where both manage to make a beautiful dream a reality.”

Relief for nervous fan

The tension was almost too much to bear for Karim Moufdi, 46, a human resources assistant in Sharjah.

“I was so nervous and honestly couldn't focus,” he said.

“But God granted us two goals and our happiness was out of this world.

He said the country's next match would be difficult, but he was buoyed by the support from Arabs all over.

“You wouldn’t believe how much my phone rang and how many messages I received from Arab friends who shared their happiness about the win,” he said.

Ahmed Elmalouli, 40, watched on with fellow Moroccans at the Grand Millennium hotel in Abu Dhabi.

“This was arranged by the Banque Centrale Populaire [a major Moroccan bank] and so many Moroccan people, including Oudadas Abdelillah, the head of the diplomatic delegation at the Moroccan Embassy, came to watch the game.

“In the next match we have our eyes on victory not a draw because we have faith in our strong team."

Morocco bring 'Arab joy'

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, congratulated the magnificent Moroccans on their achievement shortly after the final whistle.

"Atlas Lions, Arab joy [and] Arab pride from the ocean to the Gulf. Congratulations to Morocco," Sheikh Mohammed wrote on Twitter.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, also posted his congratulations on Twitter.

"Congratulations to the Atlas Lions. Congratulations to Morocco. You made all Arabs happy with this result. Your victory is deserved and your performance is heroic," said Sheikh Hamdan.

Updated: November 29, 2022, 4:11 AM