The World Cup hunt is as good as finished for the Lions of the Atlas. Morocco was knocked out of the 2018 FIFA World Cup finals in Russia on Wednesday after falling short against the European champions' who showed experience and resolve. Portugal only needed an early single goal to bag all three of the points on offer in this Group B clash.
The odds were always against the North Africans heading into this tournament who were drawn into Group B against the global football powerhouses in the form of Spain and Portugal, and also sharing a group with the Asian masters, Iran. This group earmarked the "group of death" by most analysts has provided some of the most entertaining games of the tournament. Most fans would have expected Morocco to have a stronger showing in terms of results than they have had thus far, especially after having an impressive qualifying campaign where they conceded zero goals and had the support of an experienced coach in Herve Renard. They may not have quite met expectations but maybe it is more attributed to having failed to find the back of the net in their first two fixtures. They dominated the match against Iran, creating a couple of chances but unfortunately gifted all three points to the opposition after conceding an own goal in the 90th minute. Against Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal, the Real Madrid forward proved the difference early on. Ronaldo pounced on Joao Moutinho's cross in the 4th minute and drove the ball into the net with a fierce header. Starting the match on the backfoot, the Moroccans had to dig really deep to save their World Cup dream and they left it all on the pitch. Hakim Ziyech was pulling strings in the midfield and Nordin Amrabat gave the Portuguese defense all sorts of problems with his pace, trickery and superhuman strength. Portugal seemed to be the underdogs throughout the entire match, sitting deep and letting Morocco play the beautiful game with a fluid and attractive style we all love.
One positive to take back to Rabat would be the fact that they have shown that an African team can outplay the best. Investment in scouting more clinical finishers for the Lions of the Atlas should be a priority in their continued efforts in building a formidable Moroccan side. It is not really all over yet, with their final match coming against Spain on the 25th June, they can still have a say on who progresses from the group with Portugal, Spain, and Iran sitting on four, four, and three points respectively. A shock-win over the 2010 World Cup Champions, Spain would not be such a bad farewell gift for Moroccan fans.