'Who are we': Morocco's Atlas Lionesses continue the fairytale
When the whistle went in Perth, Moroccan fans in Rabat withheld tears of joy and Zagharits and switched to their phone screens open on the South Korea-Germany result, praying for the 1-1 score not to change.
To qualify for the 16 round, Atlas Lionesses needed Germany - South Korea match to at least end with a tie.
The tension of the simultaneous Morocco-Colombia and South Korea-Germany games lasted over an hour and a half, a parallel, some fans say, "worthy of a Brian De Palma movie montage".
During the extra two minutes, when the Germans were fighting for a second goal and a qualification, Rabat went silent, with only murmurs of prayers, "Please God, we deserve it".
On television, the Atlas Lionesses were also praying.
But then, at 12:47 (GMT+1), the match's referee declared Germany out of the competition, and Rabat exploded with joy.
CES IMAGES SONT FANTASTIQUES !!!!pic.twitter.com/Z7oV5jKlkc— SOCCER212 (@SCCR_212) August 3, 2023
Fans at the cafés poured outside in disbelief, blocking the roads and screaming, "Nta Chkoun Hna (Who Are We)," a slogan that was baptised during the Qatar 2022 World Cup when the Atlas Lions made history as the first African team to qualify for the semi-finals of the tournament.
The Atlas Lionesses also made history today, 3 August 2023, as the first team in the entire Middle East and North African region to qualify for the FIFA Women's World Cup Round of 16.
In Rabat, where road rage is no joke, people in cars were currently not minding the chaos, with some joining the celebrating crowds with honks, and others even leaving their vehicles to hug strangers, screaming at each other, "Nta Chkoun Hna (Who Are We)."
A euphoria has covered the kingdom, turning what was a hot listless August Thursday into a national celebration that many will likely never forget.
"May god protect them and bring them happiness as they made us happy today," Hassania, a 76-year-old woman, told The New Arab before returning to playing her Bendir to a crowd of fans and singing together "Hadi Lbidaya, Mazal, Mazal" (This is only the beginning, there's more.), a chant she said she remembers from the celebrations of 1976 when Morocco's men's team won their first AFCON.
The Atlas Lionesses are playing their first-ever Women's World Cup, and it couldn't have started any worse with a 6-0 hammering by Germany in their opening game. But they have fought back valiantly, with back-to-back 1-0 wins.
In today's match, the game was decided right on half-time, with Morocco's Lahmari scoring after Columbia's Perez had saved a penalty. This goal will go down in history as the reason behind a sensational qualification for Morocco to the 16 tournament.
The Atlas Lionesses had to dig in, especially during the second half, but they were more than up to the task.
Moroccan fans are now aiming for the stars, intensely hoping that the Atlas Lionesses can win it all.
"As we say, the impossible is not Moroccan. The Lionesses can do it; we believe in them," Yasmina, a twenty-seven-year-old Moroccan fan told the TNA.
Morocco is set to face France on Tuesday, 8 August.
France's women's football team is one of the most consistent teams in Europe, having qualified for their first-ever FIFA Women's World Cup in 2003 and reaching the quarter-finals in two of the three European Championships held since 2000.