FT World Cup 2018: Africa Has Arrived - Morocco

In the history of the FIFA World Cup, no African team has ever reached the semi-finals. Ghana was agonizingly close in South Africa 2010 but crashed out after Luis Suarez’s heroics in goal, in place for a goalkeeper who was still in the game. Senegal’s Lions of Teranga had a great run in the 2002 finals before losing to Turkey, 1-0 after extra time. Can this year be a historical one for Africa?

Morocco would do well to reach the Round-of-16 in Russia but we could possibly be treated to a major upset by the Atlas Lions.

Let us briefly explore the possibility of Morocco delivering the goods for the continent. The Lions of Atlas had an impressive FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifying campaign where they finished top of the group occupied by Ivory Coast who hadn’t missed a world cup tournament since 2006, Mali and Gabon. Most remarkably, they scored a total of 11 goals and conceded zero. Not a lot has actually been said about their incredible stats and performances, probably because Nigeria has stolen attention in the headlines with their Nike jerseys and apparel. It is also true that assessing their chances is not a very pleasant exercise as it is really like handing a B to a great and hardworking student just because only 2 As are up for grabs in Group A and ostensibly they belong to two other extremely talented students who do not need to work too hard. It just doesn’t seem right. Furthermore, this football-loving nation has recently missed out on the opportunity to host the 2026 world cup, losing out to the United bid of Canada, Mexico, and the USA, it may not be fair to rub all their non-victories in their face.

Morocco begins their World Cup campaign against Asian surprise package, Iran on the 15th of June before tackling revered Spain and lastly, the European Champions, Portugal. If they are to book a place in the round-of-16, the Atlas Lions will have to get one over Iran and grind some sort of result against either Spain, Portugal or both. The likelihood of that actually happening is really next to impossible because of the two aforementioned more talented students in Spain and Portugal who are also vying for the two available spots. But with some instability that has recently struck the Spanish camp after the surprise sacking of their manager and also the wisdom of arguably the best coach in Africa, Herve Renard at work in the Moroccan camp, who knows what could happen.

I am actually optimistic that the Atlas Lions will pull off at least one major upset. However, here are my predictions for the final group B standings:

Portugal (1st); Spain (2nd); Morocco (3rd); Iran (4th)

What are your predictions? Let us know in the comment box below.