World Cup: Jubilant French fans celebrate in Singapore as Morocco’s fairy-tale run ends
The Atlas Lions roared and pounced, but this time failed to devour.
Morocco had the lion’s share of 61 per cent possession against France in their World Cup semi-final - a stark contrast to the paltry figures in their historic group-stage wins over Spain (23 per cent) and Portugal (27 per cent).
But it was not enough against the reigning champions and they went down 2-0. A victory for underdogs Morocco would have launched them into the World Cup final - a historic feat for an African nation.
Casablanca native Mehdi Ennouhi felt the score line did not reflect how well Morocco played on Thursday morning.
“It is a dream to be here (in the semi-finals), but unfortunately the dream cannot continue,” said the 37-year-old, who works in the financial technology industry. “It would have been nice to go all the way but this is already a big achievement for African football and I am so proud of everyone of the players.”
Ennouhi was part of a minority of Moroccan fans watching the game outdoors at Chijmes, surrounded by about 250 other fans clad mostly in the blue, red and white of Les Bleus.
Among the delirious French fans, who proudly broke out into the French national anthem La Marseillaise at crucial moments of the match, was Maxime Berger, who said: “I am so happy right now. For us to be in a second consecutive final means a lot and we want to win our third World Cup on Sunday.”
The 28-year-old, founder of a social NFT platform, added that he never underestimated the threat of their less-favoured opponents.
“It was a tough game - especially when they had a bicycle kick that almost went in during the first half - there were some nervy moments for us. I was so relieved when we got the second goal and we deserved it.”
In basketball, they call it the dagger. Palpable tension was swiftly broken with deafening cries of joy that reverberated around the area. Beer bottles clinked and tiny amounts of alcohol simultaneously rocketed into the air.
France substitute Randal Kolo Muani’s late tap-in allayed the fears of the French faithful - as Morocco piled on waves of attack midway through the game - after Theo Hernandez put Les Bleus in the driver’s seat early on.
Maxime Antoine, a 34-year-old born in Saint-Etienne, relishes the prospect of a final against a Lionel Messi-led Argentina.
“It’s going to be a crazy game. We beat Argentina in 2018 and I know they will want revenge. Argentina will be very motivated to beat us and especially with Messi’s last international game - I think it will be a very entertaining final.”
Moroccan Simo Haboucha was crestfallen at the final whistle. He was one of the 44,667 fans in attendance at the Education City Stadium when the Atlas Lions shocked the world by beating favourites Spain in the round of 16 on penalties.
Back in Singapore due to work commitments, Haboucha, who is a finance manager, said: “I am among a minority of fans here today but in Qatar, the majority of fans were supporting Morocco - I would say about 80 per cent. I think it’s because we represent all African countries and they are all rooting for us.”
Haboucha, born in Agadir, met Ennouhi in France and the duo have been friends for 10 years. They ultimately acknowledged France’s efficiency in front of goal.
“Two or three shots on targets, two goals. That’s the statistics of winners.”
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