Morocco’s World Cup fairytale continues to enchant football lovers after the Atlas Lions beat Portugal 1-0 to book their place in the tournament’s semi-finals.
In the Arab world, Saturday’s win felt particularly sweet, with Morocco’s progression marking the first time an Arab or African country has ever reached the last four in 92 years of World Cup history.
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Casablanca, a port city in western Morocco, witnessed scenes of jubilation as people poured onto the streets to celebrate their country’s remarkable against-the-odds victory.
“It is absolutely electric. People here have been dancing, celebrating, and it’s going to continue through the night,” said Al Jazeera’s Nicolas Haque, reporting from Casablanca.
While many thousands of Morocco fans have travelled to Qatar to cheer the Atlas Lions on, other supporters have done the journey in reverse, keen to sense the effervescent atmosphere gripping the North African country, he added.
“Two families flew from Saudi Arabia, another from Qatar to be here in Morocco and be amongst Moroccans to experience this moment,” Haque said.
“And a lot more people will want to come now to see history in the making.”
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Adnane Bennis, managing director of the Morocco World News English-language news website, said there were “no words” to fully express what Morocco’s win over Portugal meant for the country, Africa and the wider Arab region.
“It is huge for us. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw us qualify for the semi-finals,” Bennis told Al Jazeera from Rabat, Morocco’s capital.
“We are not going to sleep tonight,” he added, saying Moroccans – both in the country and those living abroad – would be busy celebrating their win until dawn.
“This is a great win for Morocco, a historic win, and it didn’t come out of nothing. We believed in ourselves, we believed in our squad … The dream is still alive, the journey is still ongoing and we are now two victories away from winning the World Cup.”
Joy in Gaza
There were similar outpourings of joy across the region.
In the besieged Gaza Strip, the coastal enclave’s largest sports hall was packed with thousands of people cheering on Morocco.
Reporting from the venue, Al Jazeera’s Youmna ElSayed said those gathered saw the historic result as a win for “all Arab nations”.
“They shouted, they clapped, they drummed, they sang. And then with the final whistle, thousands went out onto the streets to start their celebrations and to show their support, joy and happiness for Morocco,” she said.
“Dozens of fans we spoke to tonight told us how important this game was for them,” ElSayed added.
In Qatar, who is hosting the first World Cup ever to be played in the Middle East, Morocco fans said their grandest hopes and dreams had been surpassed by the Atlas Lions’ mesmerising journey to the last four, where they will meet France on December 14.
“This was a great match, [coach] Walid Regragui’s side was very tactical, and the whole team showed their quality,” fan Abdul Aziz told Al Jazeera from Doha’s Souq Waqif, where supporters who had been unable to procure a ticket for the spectacle at Al Thumama Stadium gathered to watch the game on television.
“They played two different games across the two halves, the first half was one they wanted to win by at least one goal, and the second half was a very tactical showing,” he added. “And they deserved to win.”
Morocco’s clean sheet capped a resolute defensive showing in Qatar, which has now seen them play more than seven hours of football without conceding to an opposition player.
Hussein, a Bahraini national, said he was overcome with pride in the wake of the result.
“I am so happy – this is the first time the World Cup is in an Arabic country, and now we have an Arabic team reaching the semifinals for the first time,” he told Al Jazeera at Souq Waqif. “I am so proud of this. It is amazing.”
Supporters in Iraq’s capital, Baghdad, also welcomed Morocco’s win, which was sealed by Youssef En Nesyri’s pivotal 42nd-minute header.
“People here are celebrating, and they will continue celebrating overnight,” said Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdelwahed, reporting from Baghdad.
“They say that this victory is so symbolic because it is not only for Morocco but for the whole African continent, the whole Arab world, and the entire Middle East region,” he added.
“People are very excited … They say that the feeling today is as if Iraq has won this match.”