Morocco beat Congo with El Kaabi the star of a historic team

Brahim played 75 minutes and provided the assist for the sixth goal  
El defensa marroquí Achraf Hakimi celebra con sus compañeros tras marcar el primer gol de su equipo durante el partido de fútbol del grupo F de la Copa Africana de Naciones (CAN) 2024 entre Marruecos y la RD del Congo en el Stade Laurent Pokou de San Pedro el 21 de enero de 2024 – PHOTO/SIA KAMBOU/AFP
Morocco defender Achraf Hakimi celebrates with teammates after scoring his team's first goal during the 2024 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) group F football match between Morocco and DR Congo at the Stade Laurent Pokou in Saint-Pierre on January 21, 2024 - PHOTO/SIA KAMBOU/AFP

Morocco lead Group E of the World Cup qualifiers with three wins in as many matches. The Atlas Lions gave their opponents little chance in the first half with two goals from El Kaabi, another from Ounahi and another from Riad. In the second half, El Kaabi scored his third goal and Rahimi grabbed his sixth to seal an uncomfortable match due to their opponents' logistical problems in playing the game.   

The road to the 2026 World Cup in Morocco is not only becoming clearer in terms of qualification, but also because of the players who are starting to take centre stage and become stars. In addition to established players such as goalkeeper Bono, PSG full-back Hakimi, Amrabat (Manchester United), En-Nesyri (Sevilla) and Ziyech (Galatasaray), there is also Betis centre-back Riad, Brahim (Real Madrid) and Olympiacos' physical powerhouse Ayoub El Kaabi, who gave Mendilibar's side victory in the Conference League final with his goal against Fiorentina.   

"I was born into a modest family. To support myself, I had to learn a trade. That's how I got into carpentry," said the former Racing Casablanca striker, who had to make a living at clubs in China and Qatar before coming to Europe. Now, several clubs in Spain are looking for the Moroccan striker, including Villarreal and Getafe.   

The team led by Regragui picked up their third win after earlier victories over Tanzania and Zambia. First place in Group E would take them directly to the World Cup in the USA, Mexico and Canada as the runners-up should qualify provided they are among the best in that group.   

Congo had initially refused to travel to Agadir for this match because their federation would only promise to pay for the outward journey. The players did not want to pay for the return trip out of their own pockets, but they finally agreed to play this match, which they should have played at home. The humanitarian crisis in the country has made it impossible for them to play matches at home, and this has led the players to lose concentration and to two defeats in the matches they have been able to play.   

In Morocco, the euphoria with their national team is total. The qualification from the last World Cup still has them dreaming of another achievement in 2026 and, before that, winning the Africa Cup of Nations. The recruitment of young Moroccan talent and the willingness of others to choose Morocco as their first choice has meant that the mix of talent of youngsters like Riyadh and veterans like Amrabat and En-Nesyri himself has made the Atlas Lions a reliable team that is also looking to put together a great team for 2030 when they will host the World Cup alongside Spain and Portugal in the hope that the final will be played in the Rabat stadium with a capacity of more than 100,000 spectators.