Can Morocco's Historic Run Finally Land Them A World Cup?

Morocco hope to host the 2030 World Cup at the sixth attempt
08:00, 08 Dec 2022

When Achraf Hakimi sent his low-flying Panenka penalty straight down the middle in the World Cup last-16 shootout against Spain to send Morocco into the quarter-finals for a first time, there was potentially a lot more on the line than just the Atlas Lions making some truly magnificent history. 

The football story alone is enough. Sacking controversial head coach Vahid Halilhodzic, who got them to Qatar, only a couple of months before the tournament after his bitter row with star player Hakim Ziyech - which saw the Chelsea player exiled - and bringing in the more conciliatory Walid Regragui was a huge gamble. With Ziyech back in the fold, it paid off handsomely. 

Some of the incredible scenes at the Education City Stadium in Doha which followed the final whistle - with both goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, who made two huge saves in the shootout, and the coach Regragui being hurled into the air by the Atlas Lions squad - will forever be part of World Cup folklore. 

But whatever happens from here in the 2022 competition for Morocco, could the fame, profile and goodwill generated in the Middle East in front of thousands of their fans result in the football-mad north African country of 40 million finally landing the World Cup after a record five unsuccessful bids?


The Royal Morocco Football Federation were in for this edition of the World Cup but, as has happened on no fewer than four others occasions, they were just edged out and came second. 

The bribery of Fifa Executive Committee members and other chicanery within football’s world governing body is now widely known and accepted, and former US delegate Chuck Blazer admitted to the FBI he was bribed to vote for France 1998 and South Africa 2010 – both times at the expense of second-placed Morocco. 

The other unsuccessful bids came ahead of Germany 2006, in 1994 when they lost out to the USA, and for the next one in 2026 when again it was the USA, along with joint-hosts and bidders Mexico and Canada, who pipped them with just two bids on the table. 

The persistent and determined Moroccans are clearly not going to let this one go, because shortly after missing out for the next World Cup, they announced their intention to try again for the 2030 World Cup, the bidding process for which started this year and will be ultimately decided in 2024. The country believes that much of the technical and construction work and pledges, plus planned more sustainable infrastructure earmarked for 2026, will stand them in good stead next time. 


Qatar voted for Morocco for 2026 and having now, albeit controversially, staged the World Cup themselves they might be a useful asset – and Emir Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani has previously declared he would unhesitatingly do so again for 2030. 

It should not be forgotten that as well as a best-ever finish for Morocco themselves, it is is also a first-ever quarter-final for an Arab or Muslim country, and likewise for the region of North Africa. Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt all have World Cup pedigree. Indeed the four nations have a total of 19 Finals appearances between them. One or all three of the above could be involved in a joint bid.

Those realities and nuances may also come into play in the voting if, as expected, Morocco go up against joint bids from Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile - and then Spain, Portugal and Ukraine from Europe. There has certainly been some publicly-expressed disappointment in Morocco about certain votes from African and Muslim countries going elsewhere in the past – despite overall relatively solid support in those blocs. 

So far the 2010 World Cup looks to have been the nearest miss for Morocco, with the tournament having been guaranteed to take place in Africa for the first time. After Nigeria, Tunisia, Egypt and Libya were outmanoeuvred, it was down to a straight fight with South Africa, who boasted a lesser World Cup tradition than their rivals.  

But as well as Blazer’s self-confessed actions, there were allegations that Trinidad and Tobago’s executive member Jack Warner accepted a ‘bigger bribe’ from South Africa to help swing it their way – a charge denied by Warner. There was even widespread speculation shortly afterwards that the votes were miscounted deliberately and that Morocco had actually won by two.  

However, all of this murky history is a million miles away from the unfettered joy shown by the Morocco team in Qatar, where the sheer pride in their achievement for their country and its people shone through. Can it reap another huge reward? 


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