Caitlin Dearing Scott
October 10, 2017
Morocco’s national soccer team, the Atlas Lions, moved to the top of Group C with a 3-0 win over Gabon on Saturday, coming one step closer to achieving its World Cup dreams for the first time since 1998. After missing a golden opportunity to claim the top of the table from Ivory Coast after the last match – a draw with Mali after Gabon’s stunning upset of the Ivory Coast – the Lions bounced back and now find themselves up one point over Ivory Coast in the Group. To qualify, they will need to win or draw against Ivory Coast at the November 11 match in Abidjan.
Speaking after the match, coach Hervé Renard said, “The team has lived up to the national jersey…The national team has recovered its effectiveness against Gabon thanks to the hat-trick of Khalid Boutaib, but also thanks to Casablanca public, which was wonderful.” Moroccan national star Hakim Ziyech echoed this sentiment, crediting the Moroccan public for its support of the team.
A win on the field would certainly support Morocco’s off-field ambitions of becoming a more prominent sports leader in Africa. In addition to bidding to host the 2026 World Cup and taking on a greater role in the Confederation of African Football, Morocco announced its bid to host the 2018 African Nations Championship late last month, after Kenya lost the right to host for being unprepared. In its bid, the Royal Moroccan Football Federation stated,
The decision of the Kingdom of Morocco to host this continental competition is part of the policy of openness towards African countries, guided by His Majesty King Mohammed VI, and whose pillar is to welcome the youth of the continent and contribute to its flourishing. Through its candidacy, Morocco puts the experiences and expertise it has accumulated in recent years at the disposal of the Confederation of African Football, in order to guarantee the success of this continental sports competition. Morocco is committed to putting all the necessary means and potentials to accommodate the selections to participate in this great football event, and provide adequate conditions of competition and excellence.
Equatorial Guinea and Ethiopia also bid to host and a vote is expected in the coming days.
As for those dreams of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, fans in the Kingdom will have to wait another month.