Nevertheless, the French club had a young Moroccan talent in their ranks who was making waves with impressive performances. The midfielder joined Ligue 1 team RC Strasbourg in July 2018 straight out of the Mohammed VI Football Academy in Sale, Morocco, and made his debut for the reserves.

Despite my acceptance of it, I remained confident in my ability to play in Ligue 1 or Ligue 2. And when the chance to join US Avranches, a third-tier club, presented itself, Ounahi naturally seized it with both hands and went on to enjoy a successful tenure there.

His progress and excellent club performances were quickly noticed by former Morocco coach Vahid Halilhodzic, who surprised many by selecting him in his squad for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations. The midfielder from Angers started each of the Atlas Lions’ three group games and came off the bench in their 2-1 quarterfinal loss to Egypt, kicking off his international career in a significant competition.

Walid Regragui took over for Halilhodzic as Morocco’s head coach in August, but Ounahi remained on the team and started all three of the nation’s group games in Qatar. I never dreamed I’d be playing in a World Cup when I was in the National [French third tier] a year ago.

I put in a lot of effort and developed, and joining Angers gave me the chance to be called up. Who would have thought that Azzedine Ounahi would start for Morocco in a World Cup match, as he is anticipated to do on Tuesday, December 6, against Spain?