Morocco and Peru decided that Madrid was a geographically perfect place to play a match and put on a show for their emigrant fans in other countries. They chose the Atlético de Madrid stadium to play a match in front of more than 34,000 fans, with slightly more Peruvians than Moroccans in the stands.
By mid-afternoon, the atmosphere could already be felt around the Metropolitano, in the San Blas area of Madrid. Also in Coslada, a nearby town where the red Morocco T-shirts were prepared in the supermarkets to watch the match at home together or to go to the match in the Metro.
The problems of the previous day were left behind, both at the Peruvian hotel, with tension between the players and the police who were securing the perimeter of the hotel, and at the Moroccan hotel because of a comment made by an intolerant hotel worker, which was resolved thanks to the mediation of Walid Regragui.
March 28, 2023
The pre-match was marked by the visit of the Moroccan squad to the Metropolitano to pay tribute to Larbi Ben Barek, the French-Moroccan striker who made 123 official appearances for Atletico Madrid and won two league titles between 1948 and 1953.
Enrique Cerezo gave Fouzi Lekjaa, president of the Royal Moroccan Football Federation, a shirt with Ben Barek's name on it in memory of the historic player who formed the "crystal striker" alongside Juncosa, Pérez-Payá, Carlsson and Escudero.
Minutes before the match, a photo of Ben Barek and Morocco's gratitude for his dedication to making the country greater could be seen on the stadium scoreboards.
Regragui was greeted with applause in the Metropolitano. He is the great supporter of this team that arrived in Madrid after beating Brazil and, above all, after making history at the World Cup in Qatar.
The starting eleven featured almost all of Morocco's top players with the exception of Achraf and Boufal. The former did not get any playing time, while the latter had half an hour on the pitch.
Spanish referee Martínez Munuera was in charge of refereeing an intense match which, despite its friendly nature, ended with Boufal and Zambrano being sent off after a fight between the two.
Bono, Mazraoui, Abde, En-Nesyri and Ziyech delighted the Moroccan fans at the Metropolitano. Their desire to cheer on the team led them to light some flares in one of the stands and stadium security had to intervene to put them out so that the match could continue without risk.
Amrabat, the Fiorentina striker who many hope will end up at Atlético de Madrid, also played and had a chance to visit the red and white stadium.
The Atlas Lions had more chances in the first half thanks to the good partnership between Aboukhlal and Ziyech at right-back, but lacked precision in the final metres.
The good game of both teams ended without goals, something that Regragui regretted at the press conference, "we missed many chances, but I am happy with the performance of the players without forgetting the fans".
Morocco's return to football after their historic World Cup has not disappointed. A win against Brazil and a draw against Peru. After the match, Fouzi Lekjaa came down to the pitch to accompany his players, wearing a hat decorated with the Moroccan flag as a nod to the fans who came to the stadium.
The Moroccan national team will not be back in action until June when they play an official Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against South Africa.