Doha, Qatar – Hopes rose as Achraf Hakimi stepped up to score a penalty that would rewrite Moroccan football history.
The teams were not separated after 120 minutes. When Hakimi caught the ball, Morocco won on penalties despite the Spanish crowd trying to distract the shooters behind the goal with camera flashes.
Morocco had scored two. Spain missed two. If Hakimi put this one in the back of the net, Morocco would have reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup.
The crowd was standing, some were standing on chairs. No one sat except in the press box and the VIP area.
The Moroccan delegates collected the flags thrown at them by the crowd. The celebrations turned to the worst. It can happen at any time. The nine people in the middle of the circle pulled each other. Their grip was tight. Their hearts were beating fast.
The finish line was near, victory was theirs.
Hakimi showed his dismissal. If he scored, his country of birth was out of the World Cup.
The red sea erupted and Morocco entered uncharted territory. They are in the quarter-finals of the World Cup for the first time after five attempts.
“It’s all the happiness in the world included in this result.” We are all very happy,” the crowd of Moroccan fans at the Education City Stadium shouted loudly after the match.
“We always believed that we would win. Because we are from Morocco. We are lions,” Iman, who is from Casablanca but lives in Qatar, said, referring to the team’s name Atlas Lions.
The celebrations moved to the court, then the stairs and finally outside the court. But the Moroccan crowd was not finished. Cars screeching, waving flags, singing and shouting, refreshing but joyful, full of great joy and crazy dancing.
“I’m so proud to be Moroccan right now, wow, wow, wow. It’s amazing, I feel the best in the world,” said Khadija. “I can’t wait for the next game. We live in Qatar. We are not going home.”
Notable among the sea of Moroccan supporters were some Spaniards who quietly exited the stadium.
“Espana, Espana, this is the way to the airport, Espana,” he taunted a group of Moroccan fans before hugging his Spanish teammates.
As for Firdous, he has a flight back to Morocco on Thursday morning. But he said he will be back for Saturday’s quarterfinal.
“This is big, big,” Firdous said. “This is what Morocco has not achieved. We have been waiting for this all our lives. This is just the beginning. We are going all the way.
“This morning, I knew that we have something special planned for us today. And this is it. I have watched all the matches of Morocco in the World Cup. Tomorrow I will go back to Morocco but I will be back for the next game. This is the commitment I want to give to this team. “
Mohammad Karam, who was speechless after enjoying the “game of his life”, couldn’t believe what happened on the field.
“I still can’t believe it.” I’m dreaming. It was a lot of nerves, a lot of tension, a lot of emotion. But we did it. We are in the quarter-finals. “