FIFA: Morocco Join List of Semi-Final Surprise Packages

2022-12-12 | Since 2 Month

Squad Morocco

Zurich,  12 December 2022- Morocco have achieved the unexpected by reaching the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 semi-finals after beating both Spain and Portugal in the knockout rounds. If little was expected of them prior to the tournament, the Atlas Lions have overcome every obstacle thrown in their way and have shocked the world in the process, FIFA said.

In a report published on its official website, FIFA said that Morocco were drawn in a tough group comprising Croatia, Belgium and Canada but nonetheless dared to dream of reaching the round of 16 but not a lot more.

Yet the Atlas Lions duly ripped up the script. They began their campaign with a draw against Croatia, before beating Belgium and Canada. By the time they faced Spain in the last 16 they were full of confidence and ultimately came out on top following Yassine Bounous penalty shootout heroics.

The fairy tale continued as they put Portugal to the sword in the quarter final, their defensive discipline and resilience bringing a fourth clean sheet. With Youssef En-Nesyris winning goal, they became the first African and Arab team to reach a World Cup semi-final.

According to FIFA, Morocco are not the first team to upset the odds and travel deep into the competition, referring to Bulgaria and Sweden in the 1994 World Cup, Croatia in the 1998 World Cup, and Korea Republic and Turkey in the 2002 World Cup.

The report indicated that USA 94 is remembered as a tournament at which several nations made their World Cup debuts, as well as being a competition replete with upsets.

Neither Bulgaria nor Sweden were expected to reach the latter stages, but they both defied those expectations. Sweden advanced to the round of 16 after finishing second in their group, picking up five points along the way including a win over Russia and draws with Cameroon and Brazil.

The Scandinavians continued their World Cup fairy tale by eliminating Saudi Arabia in the round of 16, and then defeating Romania in a quarter-final penalty shootout. They were finally brought to a halt in the semis, narrowly losing to Brazil.

Bulgaria’s World Cup, meanwhile, was fuelled in part by the brilliance of star Hristo Stoichkov. After winning twice in the group stage they defeated Mexico on penalties in the round of 16 and then produced an almighty upset by defeating Germany 2-1 in the quarter final.

Their journey eventually came to an end after narrowly losing to a Roberto Baggio-inspired Italy in the semi-final, before being beaten 4-0 in the third-place play-off by Sweden.

Croatia participated in their first World Cup at France 98, just two years after the national team's first taste of a major international tournament at the 1996 UEFA European Championship.

Amazingly, the Croatians reached the semi-finals. Wins over Jamaica and Japan in the group stage meant they finished second in their group. They went on to beat Romania 1-0 in the round of 16 thanks to a penalty from main man Davor Suker.

A stunning 3-0 victory over Germany in the quarter-finals qualified them for the final four, where they lost to the hosts and eventual winners France, this after taking the lead through Suker.

They ultimately finished third, beating the Netherlands 2-1 in the third place play-off match with goals from Robert Prosinecki and Suker, who ended the tournament with the Golden Boot.

In Korea Republic 2002, Dutchman Guus Hiddink was appointed head coach of Korea Republic following his impressive work with the Netherlands national team between 1995-98.

Upon his arrival in Asia, he immediately implemented a strict regime of long training camps which meant his side arrived in peak physical condition for the 2002 tournament that they co-hosted with Japan.

They topped their group after defeating Poland and Portugal and drawing with USA, before defying all the odds by beating Italy 2-1 in the last 16, thanks to Ahn Junghwan’s golden goal.

The Koreans went on to beat Spain on penalties in the quarter-finals before losing in the semi-finals to Germany. Hiddink’s side eventually finished fourth, going down 3-2 to Turkey in the third-place play-off.

Turkey were another surprise package at the 2002 tournament. After a rocky start, losing their first match to Brazil and drawing 1-1 with Costa Rica, they won their final group game against China in style with goals from Hasan Sas, Bulent Korkmaz and Umit Davala.

Another Davala goal proved the difference against hosts Japan in the round of 16, which set up a quarter-final against Senegal, who they overcame with a İlhan Mansiz golden goal to reach the semi-finals for the first time.

There Senol Gunes's men lost to Brazil courtesy of a Ronaldo strike, before bouncing back to finish third after defeating Korea Republic in the third place play-off. 


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