By Rashmi Goel

Their unofficial title is 'the world's team'. Now, Morocco must defeat world champions France in the World Cup semi-finals. The fact that they are the first African team to reach this stage is an impressive achievement, yet there is an underlying feeling that they are just two games away from immortality. Spain and Portugal have already been eliminated, but France is undoubtedly the toughest test so far. France defeated England in the quarter-finals, but the strength of the opposition is not the only concern for Walid Regragui. As the referee brought to an end the 1-0 victory over Portugal, his team looked like a group of wounded soldiers. Romain Saiss, who was heavily strapped before the game, played 57 minutes before being stretchered off. The fact that he is able to attend this event will be nothing short of an incredible achievement.

Wesair Mazraoui and Nayef Aguerd missed the win over Portugal due to thigh issues and illnesses, respectively, but may return to the lineup in this match. As much as the manager did not wish to give any information away, his side could use the return of those returning faces to help boost their energy levels. In order to reach this point, has been a Herculean effort. As expected, they should have lost every game they played, but instead, they defeated Belgium and Portugal in normal time, and Spain on penalties. Under the inspirational leadership of their manager, who only took over at the end of August, they defied the odds due to their unity and teamwork. The credit that should have been given to Regragui had not been accorded to him prior to the tournament. It was ironic that his appointment was met with some derision, as he had just led Wydad to a double in the Moroccan league and the CAF Champions League.

In three years, Halilhodzic qualified Morocco for the AFCON quarterfinals, but many players found him abrasive. The international career of Hakim Ziyech ended after they're falling out, while Bayern Munich's Mazraoui has also been banned after refusing to drink water every five minutes at training. Abderrazak Hamdallah retired from international football in 2019 but has been welcomed back with open arms by Regragui. Those old issues have been long forgotten and the manager has created a wonderful working environment, with each player now playing a crucial role in Morocco's success going forward. With each victory, the team has gained additional momentum and now it appears that there are no limits to what they can accomplish. In his latest press conference, Regragui stated, "Why not reach the final of the World Cup? We will show great desire and do our best to pull off an upset." This competition is intended to change the mentality of the continent as a whole.

“Our mission is to accomplish our objective, and I can assure you that we are not tired. During the run, we will not feel fatigued. In order to avoid wasting this opportunity, I do not wish to wait another 40 years. PSG right-back Achraf Hakimi will have to step up to the plate. It was a magnificent Panenka that enabled him to defeat Spain, but he will now face his clubmate Kylian Mbappe, who is eyeing the Golden Boot and a second successive World Cup at just 23 years of age. They visited Qatar with PSG in January and shared a premonition of their meeting at the World Cup. As Kylian Mbappe said next to his teammate, "I hope we will win [against Tunisia] and after we play against Morocco, I must destroy my friend." When prompted by his teammate, Hakimi replied, "I will kick him." Mbappe concurred, "That will break my heart a little bit, but football is what it is, so I must kill him." It is possible that Hakimi, who is equally fast, might even be a better fit to silence arguably the best player on earth, as Mbappe failed to score against England and Kyle Walker. Nevertheless, if Mbappe doesn't get you, one of his teammates will. It is a different story with the Atlas Lions, however. Regragui has guided them from the brink of despair to the final four of the World Cup and if they overcome the odds against France, they may have written the greatest World Cup underdog story ever.


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