Morocco's achievements in the world of football are surprising fewer and fewer football fans. Since the inauguration of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) ranking lists in 1992, the North African team has experienced a meteoric rise that has taken them to the gates of the world top. This ranking is proof that what was experienced at the Qatar 2022 World Cup was not the result of chance, but of hard work that is now, five years later, bearing fruit. If when a big club succeeds it is due to the rise of cadets to the second team, and youth to the first team, the greatest achievement of the Moroccan national team is due, among other things, to the Mohamed VI Football Academy.
As Spanish journalist Alexis Martin-Tamayo, known as MisterChip, announced on Thursday, they will maintain their eleventh place in the next FIFA ranking. Morocco's triumph is the triumph of a continent that exports players to the best clubs in the world. It is not surprising that in recent years the most prestigious players from the African continent, for whom exorbitant clauses are paid, are Moroccans.
The most significant case is that of Achraf Hakimi, a Real Madrid youth player, who travelled in search of further progress to Germany, and years later ended up in Italy where he was crowned champion and made one of the biggest clubs of today, Paris Sant-Germain (PSG), pay nearly 900 million dirhams (80 million euros) to occupy the starting position that would lead him to be the best player in his position, obtaining a place in the best eleven of the year for FIFA.
Cases like that of the Parisian full-back are becoming more and more common. After Morocco's elimination in the semi-finals of the World Cup against the French team, who were the last champions, the football world turned its eyes to all the work behind the success of the team that earned the nickname of the Atlas Lions.
The creation of the academy twelve years ago is one of the most significant of the many initiatives supported by the Alawite kingdom's monarch, Mohammed VI. Some of the players who received training at the academy include Azzedine Ounahi of Olympique Marseille, one of the sensations of the tournament who inspired major European teams, Youssef En-Nesyri of Sevilla and Nayef Aguerd of West Ham in England.
The performance of the Moroccan national team is only on a par with that of the major European powers, who have a footballing culture that cannot be compared to that of any other region in the world. If we look at the FIFA rankings of the last 5 years, the progress of the North African team is substantial. If we compare it with teams whose chances of participating in international tournaments are the same as those of the Atlas Lions, we can see that the evolution of Moroccan football is even better than it might seem. While Tunisia and, above all, Algeria have been slipping down the rankings, the situation of the Alawite kingdom has been radically the opposite.
In 2019, it was ranked 47th and was not in the Top 3 teams on the African continent, nor even in the Top 3 of the MENA region (North Africa and the Middle East). As the academies in the Alawite kingdom began to operate the evolution in the lists was positive and constant over time, moving in 2020 to the 33rd position, in 2021 to the 24th and finally reaching the 11th position in 2022 and 2023.
Meanwhile, the other teams on the African continent have seen the Atlas Lions pass them by on the right. Just two years ago, the Moroccan team was fourth in Africa and third in the North African region, behind Senegal, Tunisia and Algeria. Indeed, according to FIFA rankings, Morocco's only rivals have been Senegal on the continent, and Tunisia, who have unseated Algeria on quite a few occasions, in the North African region.
If we go even deeper and compare the Moroccan national team with its most legendary rival, Algeria, the progress of the Kingdom of Morocco's national team is even more evident, for while Algeria has not dropped below 29th place, currently occupying 34th place, the national team led by coach Walid Regragui has climbed steadily up the table to reach the position it occupies today, eleventh.