In one of the biggest upsets in the history of FIFA World Cup, Morocco’s national football team knocked Spain out of the running and qualified for the quarterfinals, the farthest an Arab nation has ever gone in the international tournament.
The two neighboring countries, separated by the Mediterranean Sea, met for a tight match that went into overtime. After 120 tense minutes, Spain missed three penalty kicks in a row, and an incredible effort by Morocco’s goalie Yassine Bounou sent the North African team to the next round.
Bounou has been indispensable for the Moroccan team, as he, so far, has conceded only one goal and saved the team from two penalties. The talented goalie has spent most of his career in Spain; since he was born in Montreal, he was eligible to represent either Canada or Morocco and chose the latter.
Morocco will face either Portugal or Switzerland in the quarterfinals, as the only team from outside Europe or South America to make it to the last eight.
Prior to its match against Spain, Morocco’s greatest-ever achievement in the tournament was reaching the top 16 round at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
Following Morocco’s win, celebrations erupted not only in the winning country, and in Doha, Qatar, where the tournament was held, but also across the Arab world. Videos from Dubai, Gaza and other cities on social media showed masses watching the match and waving Moroccan flags.
Several European cities are bracing for potential riots, as occurred after Morocco’s win over Belgium in the group stage. Fans “celebrated” that victory by rioting in Brussels, and in the Dutch cities of Rotterdam, Hague and Amsterdam, setting cars and electric scooters ablaze, throwing bricks at vehicles and causing mayhem.
Police deployed water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowds and arrested dozens of people. Some media reports indicated that the rioters in these European cities were of North African descent.