Morocco’s national football team, the Atlas Lions, have a fantastic chance to book their ticket to the last 16 of the 2022 Qatar World Cup for the first time since 1986.
Coach Walid Regragui and his regal pride have done so commendably in their first two matches they can be excused for humming to Jimmy Cliff’s 1993 hit ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ – if they so wished!
The rain is not fully gone, but the first obstacles in the form of 2018 World Cup losing finalists, Croatia, and World number two, Belgium, are out of the way after Morocco’s goalless draw and 2-0 victory over the duo.
Yet, as Jimmy Cliff – the Jamaican reggae and soul musician – sings, Morocco can still “see all obstacles in my way” with their Group F’s final match against Canada at Al Thumama Stadium coming up this evening.
But what is certain is that the Atlas Lions can “see clearly” the path to the knockout stage.
They may not hum to “it’s gonna be a bright (bright)… Bright (bright) sun shiny day” yet, but surely the tune should be on their playlist later tonight and tomorrow morning if Regragui and his boys successfully finish the group stage job against Canada on Thursday.
In fact, so clearly the Atlas Lions can see that they need only a draw and not care what is happening between Croatia and Belgium for them to progress!
The position they find themselves in is thanks to the solid organisation of Regragui in the first games, where Morocco played with both style, disciplined tenacity and honour.
So good is Morocco’s eyesight that they can even lose to Canada, for as long as Croatia beat Belgium, or Croatia lose by more than two goals, for the Atlas Lions to make it.
But you don’t want to risk such complications. So they will just have to do the business themselves.
Of course this being Canada’s last game in Qatar, having lost their first two to Belgium and Croatia, it is their final chance to put up a real show of pride. So they will not lie down for a beating.
Alphonso Davies scored Canada’s first goal at a World Cup in their game against Croatia, and they will want to go a step better with a point or win.
For Morocco coach Regragui, he will count on his team’s ability to shut out opponents and a whirlwind transition where all attack in possession.
Romain Saiss and Zakaria Aboukhlal scored against Belgium, with Hakim Ziyech doing the beautiful and Achraf Hakimi adding the assuredness. Africa will be hoping for similar sights and fortunes.
There have been three meetings between the two nations, with Morocco winning twice and drawing the other.
The two sides last faced off in a friendly in 2016. The Atlas Lions won 4-0, Ziyech netting a brace in that one.
Should Morocco make it to the round of 16, an even bigger hurdle awaits – with Spain, or possibly Germany waiting. But tonight’s business first!
Canada possible XISt. Clair, Johnston, Steven Vitoria, Miller, Adekugbe;, Buchanan, Kone, Eustaquio, Hoilett, Davies, David
Morocco possible XIBounou, Hakimi, Aguerd, Saiss, Mazraoui, Amrabat, Ounahi, Amallah, Ziyech, En-Nesyri, Boufal
Today’s Group F matches
Croatia vs. Belgium, 6pm
Canada vs. Morocco, 6pm
Today’s Group E matches
Costa Rica vs. Germany, 10pm