Morocco’s national team receive hero’s welcome on return home

Morocco’s national football team have received a hero’s welcome upon their return home after accomplishing the seemingly impossible feat of finishing fourth at the World Cup in Qatar.

After their plane touched down on Tuesday, the players rode an open-top bus through the major avenues of the capital, Rabat. With flares, chants and flags, thousands of Moroccans turned out to greet the players, who injected new energy into African and Arab football.

Underdogs Morocco, known as the Atlas Lions, conquered hearts with their never-say-die attitude and made history as one of the big success stories of this year’s tournament.

Morocco defeated elite teams, beating second-ranked Belgium, stunning 2010 champions Spain in a penalty shootout in the last 16, and continuing their impressive run with a 1-0 win against 2016 European champions Portugal, before stumbling against the defending champions France.

Along the way, the Atlas Lions became the first African and Arab country to reach a World Cup semifinal.

The royal court said on Monday that King Mohammed VI would receive the team at the palace in Rabat “to celebrate their great and historic accomplishment”.

The team finished fourth in the competition after losing to Croatia 1-2 in the third-place playoff on Saturday, exceeding the expectations of most Moroccans.

The Moroccan team charmed many Arab football fans who saw in the team a reflection of themselves and the players waved the Palestinian flag after their wins and celebrated on the field with their mothers and children.

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