Moroccans arrive in Doha for third-place play-off in World Cup

Atlas Lions missed out on Sunday's big game but fans say they are proud of their national team

Hicahm Azennar arrives in Doha from the US for Morocco's final World Cup match when the Atlas Lions meet Croatia to decide third place. Ali Al Shouk / The National
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Morocco fans arrived in Doha to watch their team play Croatia on Saturday night to decide who takes third place at the Fifa World Cup 2022.

The Atlas Lions became the first team from the Arab world to reach the semi-finals.

They were warriors in the tournament and deserve that place
Hicahm Azennar, 53, Morocco fan

Morocco have been the underdogs of the tournament, fighting off talented teams like Spain and Portugal with a strong defence, and earning support from Arabs around the world.

Despite a two-goal defeat to France last week, Moroccan fans continue to support their team.

Khadija Rhazi flew from Rabat to Doha with her son.

“We will attend the match to support our heroes and we will win tonight,” she told The National at the Souq Waqif tourist area in Doha.

Khadija Rhazi, flew from Rabat in Morocco to Doha with her son to feel like she is taking part in Moroccan history. Photo: Ali Al Shouk

“It’s an important match and they deserve a third place. What they did is a historic achievement.”

Ms Rhazi was watching Morocco matches in her hometown and managed to book a flight to Doha.

“I’m so proud of the players and want to thank them because they brought joy and happiness to our homes. I didn’t have this joy during my whole life. All because of football. No words can thank them enough for what they did,” she said.

The battle for third place is a less glamorous game that the final. Some players regard the tie as one between two teams who would rather be on the plane home after being knocked out.

Hicahm Azennar, 52, believes it is a final for Moroccans.

He arrived from the US on Saturday, went to the Souq Waqif carrying the Moroccan and US flags to search for a match ticket.

“The atmosphere is nice and I'm very thankful that I have made it,” said Mr Azennar, who has lived in Washington for 22 years.

“I was very excited and very happy. I want to attend the match but I don’t have a ticket. I'm waiting for my friend who might get us tickets.”

Mr Azennar said that it was a dream come true arriving in Doha after spending the tournament watching Morocco matches in the US, where he works in a restaurant.

“I was eager to come to support Morocco in action but I had to take care of my family and it is a busy time for business in US.”

He said that third place is very important for all Moroccan fans.

“Our team came to this stage and we want to see them in third place. They were warriors in the tournament and deserve that place.”

Mr Azennar said that he had spoken to another Moroccan fan who arrived from China that morning.

“We have many fans still coming, even if it is the last match for us. My new friend arrives from China. Doha became a place where all Moroccans came to support the team.”

“We will celebrate even if we lose tonight,” he said.

Updated: December 17, 2022, 1:10 PM