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Category Archives: sport

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Morocco, the story of the tournament

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Despite Morocco‘s defeat in the World Cup semi-finals against formidable France, the North African nation, as an underdog, scripted history not only for the African and Arab world, but also for the entire world.

In 1977, when only three African nations were permitted to qualify for the World Cup, soccer legend Pele predicted: “An African nation will win the World Cup before the year 2000.”

However, by the end of 2010 World Cup in South Africa, only three African nations had reached the quarter-finals: Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010. In the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Algeria was the only African country to qualify for the group stages. They lost to Germany in the round of 16. In 2018, no African nation could reach the knockout stages of the World Cup in Russia.

TV grab of the semi-finals match, France vs Morocco

Morocco’s advancement to the semi-finals in this World Cup took them one step closer to making Pele’s prediction a reality, though years later.

The 2022 World Cup has been a tournament of underdogs and iconic upsets with Saudi Arabia defeating the mighty Argentina, Japan triumphing over Germany, Korea winning over Portugal and Tunisia defeating formidable France. Also, football giants like Spain, Belgium and Denmark tasted defeat at the hands of African and Asian teams.

It’s worth noting the heroics of Morocco especially after the country defeated Spain, one of the only eight countries to have ever won the trophy and Portugal, which is ninth in FIFA’s ranking of the national teams.

National anthems of the two teams being played before the match

Morocco will forever be remembered for their fearless zeal, passion, skill, team effort and relentless fight. Notwithstanding Messsi, Neymer, Ronaldo and Mbappe, fans won’t forget Youssef-en- Nesyri whose fine header against Portugal secured Morocco a spot in the semi-finals, manager Walid Regragui without whose cool, intelligent leadership none of this would have been possible, Hakim Ziyech, Sofiane Boufal, Yassine Bounou, and Achraf Hakimi.

Morocco may have failed to reach the finals, but it has touched the hearts of milions of fans not only in Africa and the Arab world, but across continents. The defeat to France can’t take away for a moment the impact Morocco’s advancement to the semi-finals has had on its country, its people and anyone, who has ever felt like the underdog.

Even though the tournament isn’t over yet, there’s no denying Morocco is the ‘Story of the Tournament’.




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Saving Penalty Kick: Should a Striker Get a Second Chance?

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Watching England captain Harry Kane scoring on the penalty rebound against Denmark at Wembley stadium, I thought it’s a great injustice to a gallant goalkeeping, especially when the penalty decision was hugely controversial and contentious!

Can the rule be tweaked now? Scoring a goal in the second attempt shouldn’t be allowed.

English midfielder Raheem Sterling dashed through Denmark’s defense in extra time of the Euro 2020 semi-final and went down in the box after what appeared to be minimal contact.

Well, I understand, it’s been a rule for ages that the game is on and the striker is allowed to take a second shot even if the first penalty attempt is saved.

However, it was really heart-wrenching to see that even though Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel made a stunning and spectacular save, the English captain scored on the rebound sending the English team to the final with a 2-1 win.

I believe time has come to change the rule.

Think of the goalkeeper! Think of his tremendous mental pressure in the high-voltage game. . Shouldn’t we acknowledge the goalie’s grit, skill, speed and dexterity? It was truly heart-breaking. Danish goalkeeper Schmeichel’s stupendous show went simply unrecognized on that day. The braveheart under the bar must also get his fair share of spotlight.

Poor guy! It wasn’t fair.   

I think football mandarins may give it a thought and change the rule: Striker won’t be given a second chance once the first penalty attempt is saved.

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World Cup 2018: Croatia loses yet creates history

Few know there’s a city named Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. It’s only after Croatia reached the World Cup soccer final, people take note of it.
Croatia, with a population of just 4.2 million, is the smallest nation to reach the tournament final since Uruguay in 1950. It reached that point by coming from behind in the second half of three consecutive games, all of which required 30 minutes of extra time to settle (two on penalty-kick tiebreakers).
As the jubilant French team was basking in the glory of their second World Cup title at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, the downpour hid tears streaming from the eyes of the fallen Croatians, whose heroic run through soccer’s ultimate testing ground offered hope to every small country with big dreams.

The Croatia national team

Croatia may have lost the most famous title of international soccer, but their terrific team spirit and incredible never-say-die attitude finally won. The amount of hearts Croatia won in Asia, Africa, Europe, North America and Pacific is amazing.
As I was reading Croatia Week, which is published from Zagerb, I was moved by the comments made by a Croatian.
“We are so used to bad news in Croatia, about the economy, unemployment, people fleeing the country etc. Croats are the people who know their limits, maybe too well. Maybe so well that after years they became self-imposed. This team taught us that we are not prisoners of bad news and that with effort, hard work, practice and knowledge we can beat the odds and go beyond our limits.”
Yes, the soccer team has proved Croatians are not the prisoners of bad news.
“Sometimes we feel so alone. We are a small economy, our bureaucracy repeals foreign businesses. We feel alone even in Croatia, divided by the left and right and pro and against and class and income. It’s true people do manage to gather to oppose something or someone but rarely do we feel united in a positive way. And that’s exactly what happened when all people united in unprecedented happiness and joy,” the Croatian commented.

Coach Zlatko Dalic

One person who especially stuck out was the coach, Zlatko Dalić. His incredible sense of measure and sportsmanship, even in most euphoric situations after major wins, always congratulating the opponents, never underestimating the next opponent, putting the team first when it comes to results, is amazing. What an incredible man!
Dalic said: “On our bus there is a slogan: ‘Small Country With Big Dreams’. You have to believe it’s possible. You have to have a dream and ambition, and then maybe it will come true — in football or in life.”

Lesson: The Croatians have taught that being humble, sportsman spirit and never giving up is the ultimate winner.

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