The year 2022 will continue to be an unforgettable year for the Moroccan Atlas Lions and Lionesses, Moroccan football and the people of Morocco as a whole. It was a year in which Morocco was at the center of everything good in African football at all levels. Fourth place at the 2022 FIFA World Cup capped off what has been a fantastic year as they set a new record as the first African team in World Cup history to cross the quarter-final hurdle and play in the semifinal. This article highlights how Moroccan football has been in 2022.
Fourth place in the World Cup
Morocco’s fourth place finish in the World Cup is arguably the best thing that has happened to African football this year. Atlas Lions qualified for the World Cup by beating the Democratic Republic of the Congo by an aggregate score of 5-2 in the last qualifying round, to choose one of the five places allocated to Africa in the World Cup. Before the World Cup, the Moroccan FA sacked Franco-Bosman’s manager, Valid Halilhodzic, just three months before the tournament. Halilhodzic was sacked for leaving out the likes of Hakim Ziyech (which caused him to retire from international football), Amine Harit and Noussair Mazraoui. In August 2022, the Moroccan Football Association announced the appointment of former international and Wydad Casablanca coach Walid Regragui to lead the team to the World Cup in Qatar.
Morocco was drawn in Group F along with Croatia, Belgium and Canada. On paper, the Moroccans had little hope of qualifying considering their opponent’s strengths. The Atlas Lions drew their first game 0-0 against Croatia, before defeating Belgium 2-0 and Canada 2-1 respectively. Morocco topped the group and finished as one of the teams with an unbeaten record in the group stage. The team defeated Spain 3-0 on penalties after a 0-0 draw in 120 minutes, in the round of 16, before beating one of the tournament favorites Portugal 1-0 in the quarter-finals. However, the team’s journey ended after a 2-0 draw to eventual runners-up France. In the game for third place, Morocco lost 2-1 to group stage opponent Croatia to finish fourth.
Beyond the performances on the pitch, Morocco was also at the center of the organization of tournaments and finals on the continent. On January 15, 2021, Morocco was awarded the hosting rights for the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations. The tournament was held between July 2 and 23, 2022. The tournament also saw the country witness massive success in their women’s football and set new records.
The Atlas Lionesses defeated the tournament’s most successful team, Nigeria, 5-4 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in 120 minutes to advance to the final. In the final, the team lost 2-1 to South Africa to finish runners-up. The team’s performance was their best finish at the tournament, and also saw them qualify for the 2023 Women’s World Cup which will take place in Australia and New Zealand for the first time in their history.
The country also hosted the 2022 CAF Champions League final which was played at the Stade Mohammed V in Casablanca on May 30, 2022. Similarly, the Principe Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat hosted the match of the 2022 CAF Super Cup, which is usually played between the champions of the CAF Champions League and the CAF Confederations Cup.
Morocco once again extended its dominance to the continent’s club football competitions. In the CAF Champions League, Wydad AC (of Morocco) defeated Al Ahly, the most successful team in the tournament, 2-0 to win their third CAF Champions League title. In the CAF Confederations Cup, RS Berkane (Morocco) defeated Orlando Pirates 5-4 on penalties to win their second title. The success of both teams saw the continent witness the first match of the CAF Super Cup in Morocco. RS Berkane defeated Wydad 2-0.
In the second season of the CAF Women’s Champions League, Morocco also enjoyed some success. In the 2022 edition of the Royal Armed Forces Sports Association (Women), AS FAR won all group matches to top their group. The team then defeated Bayelsa Queens of Nigeria 1-0 in the semi-final to advance to the final. In the final, the team defeated Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa 4-0 to win their first title.
On December 16, FIFA announced that Morocco will host the Club World Cup scheduled for February 1-11, 2023. This will be the third time the country will host the tournament, after hosting it in 2013 and 2014. The country also in the year was confirmed as the host of the Women’s Nations Cup in 2024. The country has also submitted a bid to host the Men’s Nations Cup in 2025. With the level of success achieved in the year, Morocco he hopes to build on it and be at the forefront of football and sport in general on the continent.
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