BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
Just before the Thursday draw for Africa’s preliminary competition for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, moderator, Nigerian-Lebanese Mimi Fawaz invited the FIFA President, Gianni Infantino and the CAF president, Dr. Patrice Motsepe for opening remarks.
Morocco, expectedly took the centre stage. Infantino tried a balancing act of wishing all nations across the continents well in the 2026 World Cup but pointing at the trophy which was placed on a podium by his left hand side remarked that the ‘trophy which everyone wants to win is here in Africa.
Motsepe went further, praising the exploits of Morocco in the last edition.
Hear Africa’s third richest man: ”Morocco has shown us that we can win the World Cup. Morocco has made us proud. Morocco has told us that indeed Africa can get to the final
“We are optimistic that in 2026, an African nation will go further (than the semifinals attained by Morocco)”
The Kingdom of Morocco has always been the African pace-setter in the World Cup.
When on 11 June 1970 Morocco played a 1-1 draw with Bulgaria, the kingdom became the first African nation to win a point at the World Cup.
When on 11 June 1986 Morocco beat Portugal 3-1, the Kingdom became the first African team to top a World Cup group. It was a feat later equaled by Nigeria in 1994.
Morocco in 1982 thus became the first African team to move beyond the group stage. The allure of it was that Morocco had drawn a power-packed group that comprised of England, Poland and Portugal.
They were threatening to break all barriers and West Germany only overcame Morocco, two minutes to full-time, winning 1-0. At Qatar 2022, Morocco made both Africa and Arab World proud by getting to the semi-finals and winning an African team’s biggest ever purse -$25 million.