Few could have predicted Yassine Bounou, an Atlas Lions substitute at Russia 2018, would be performing heroics for Morocco at Qatar 2022.
Born in Montreal after his parents left Morocco for Canada and then returned. “Bono” began his professional career with Wydad Casablanca at the age of 19, breaking into the first squad. He joined Atletico Madrid in 2012 and played for the club’s B squad for two seasons.
Bounou made his senior team debut for Morocco in a game against Burkina Faso in 2013. Having previously competed for the national team at the youth level. His performance highlighted his promising future to Moroccan supporters.
After spending two seasons on loan at Real Zaragoza in the 2014–15 and 2015–16 seasons. Bounou officially left Atletico Madrid in favor of Girona in 2016 due to a lack of opportunities to make the first squad.
Russia in 2018: Munir’s understudy
After settling in successfully with Girona and aiding the team in gaining promotion to Spain’s top division. Bounou had a successful La Liga season in 2017–18, which led to his selection for the Moroccan team in Russia in 2018.
Herve Renard was Morocco’s coach at the time. And the French manager decided to start Munir Mohamedi in goal for Numancia instead.
Bounou did not participate in any of Morocco’s games against Iran, Portugal, or Spain. As they were eliminated from the group stage. As luck would have it, the talented goalie would eventually rise to a far better position four years later.
At the club level, changes were also imminent with Bounou’s initial loan move from Girona.
Eventually, the latter’s injury provided Bounou with his moment, and the brilliant goalkeeper made the most of it by helping the Andalusian club win the 2019–20 UEFA Europa League.
He continued to thrive for the club after establishing his credentials for a starting position with Los Nervionenses. He was also Morocco’s No. 1 in the 2021 AFCON in Cameroon. Additionally, he won La Liga’s prestigious Ricardo Zamora trophy in the 2020–21 season.
In an interview with FIFA+ prior to Qatar 2022, Bounou stated, “I think we have to learn from our experience in Russia 2018.”
Bounou appears destined to perform heroics for the Atlas Lions at Qatar 2022 after years of relentlessly working to establish himself as Morocco’s main man and after a variety of ups and downs at the club level.