At the Education City stadium in Qatar on Tuesday, the Atlas Lions roared into a historic quarterfinal spot by eliminating the mighty Spain in a round of 16 penalty shootout. A Real Madrid youth product named Achraf Hakimi scored the game-changing penalty to send Spain home and advance Morocco into the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time.
The Arab world erupted in jubilation and pride as it supported the valiant North African team. In Qatar’s stadiums and the UAE fan zones, the ear-shattering cacophony of singing, drumming, jeering, and whistling from Morocco’s supporters has produced an atmosphere unlike any other.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, congratulated the team and referred to them as “the lions” shortly after the final whistle.
After the game, Jawad El Yamiq of Morocco celebrates as his country has advanced to the quarterfinals. Sheikh Mohammed shared his happiness on Twitter by writing: “For Moroccans and Arabs alike, nothing is insurmountable. How proud we are to be Moroccan Lions and men!” The team received congratulations from Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai, for their “deserved victory and outstanding heroic performance.” The Atlas Lions achieved a first-ever feat in Arab football history today by qualifying for the quarterfinals, the author wrote on Twitter.
Morocco is sustaining the Arab world’s hopes of hosting the World Cup by riding a wave of fervent support. If they maintain the massive backing that has supported them through an impressive array of results, the nation now has a chance to become the first semifinalists in both the Arab world and Africa. They will play either Portugal or Switzerland, who are in action later on Tuesday, in the quarterfinal on Saturday at Doha’s Al Thumama Stadium.