Morocco’s 2-1 win over Brazil at the weekend underlines the North African country’s growing status as a heavyweight in African football.
The Atlas Lions recorded their first win over mighty Brazil with HM King Mohammed VI’s massive investment in football key to the success of the North African country.
In a match where both teams paid tribute to football legend Pele who died in December, Soufiane Boufal and Abdelhamid Sbiri struck on either side of the half to send wild celebrations across Morocco.
The win dampened Manchester United Star Casemiro’s first match as captain of the Selecao.
Casemiro, who stepped in as captain for the injured Neymar, had equalised for Brazil in the 67th minute before Sabiri struck the Atlas Lions’ historic winner in the 79th minute.
Morocco, who are in the same Africa Cup of Nations group as Bafana Bafana, continue to excel.
The 2-1 victory over Brazil came in a week when they became the first African nation to qualify for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations.
Bafana Bafana’s failure to beat Liberia in Johannesburg means the Atlas Lions, who won their first two games of the qualifiers, are through to the 2023 edition, which will be held in Ivory Coast next January.
Crucially, the win over the five-time world champions proves their 2022 Qatar World Cup heroics were not a fluke. The North African giants beat a Ronaldo-led Portugal 1-0 last year to become the first African team to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup.
National team coach Walid Regragui has repeatedly joined respected South African coach Pitso Mosimane in crediting King Mohammed VI’s grand vision for the success Moroccan football and sport is enjoying.
“HM King Mohammed VI has put a lot of means to advance soccer in Morocco,” Regragui said at the World Cup.
Key to this success is the Kingdom’s $15 million Rabat-based Mohammed VI Football Academy, a part of the Royal sports projects, opened in 2009. The state-of-the-art facility identifies young talent across Morocco and develops them. Yousef En-Nesyri, the quarter-final World Cup goal hero in the 1-0 win over Portugal, is a product of the Academy.
Morocco Football Federation special representative Omar Khayri said the victory over mighty Brazil proves that the King’s foresight and great vision to develop football is bearing fruit.
“The King has been leading sports development from the front, and the win today is a result of his hard work and great plans not just for football but all sports. Beating Brazil is an immense pride moment for Morocco. Remember, the King’s vision has also uplifted women’s football. The National team reached the final of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations last year and is going to their maiden World Cup later this year. Our Futsal team won the 2020 Africa Cup of Nations. This is all because HM King Mohammed VI has put in a lot of means to support the development of sport in the country,” said Khyari.
Given the history between the two countries, he described the win over Brazil as massive.
“As you can see, Morocco has closed the gap between Africa and the best football-playing countries in the world. Before the massive win on Saturday, Morocco had suffered defeats in their only two other meetings. A 2-0 loss in a friendly in 1997 and a 3-0 loss in the group stage of the 1998 World Cup. The 2-1 win last night shows the success of the Academy and that the King’s hard work is paying off,” said Khyari.
Bafana Bafana, who are still battling to qualify for Afcon, host Morocco in June in a possibly must-win home clash.