Abde, national hero

Abde achieved his goal. Morocco has been proclaimed this Saturday champion of the Africa Cup Sub-23 with the Barcelona player as a great star. After the suffered pass to the semifinals ensured the Moroccan qualification for the Olympic Games, in the final there was also a tough obstacle, the current champion Egypt, who endured almost the entire game with one less player. But the Atlas Lions decided the final after extra time and lifted the Cup in a packed Stade Moulay Abdallah in Rabat. Moroccan football is advancing by leaps and bounds with the 21-year-old Barcelona player as one of its benchmarks.

The Barça player was already present at the World Cup in Qatar in which Morocco won a historic fourth place. This summer, after his brilliant season in Osasuna and despite the fact that his future seems up in the air, he decided to sacrifice his vacations (Barça’s return to work is scheduled for Monday) to play this Cup (alongside the also Barça player from the Chadi subsidiary Riyadh). However, for Morocco it was a national matter. It has not been present in a Games since London 2012 and has not lifted a title in higher categories since the 20th century. They only have one Africa Cup in 1976 and one U-20 in 1997. It is the first time they have won this U-23.

The Moroccan celebration.
The Moroccan celebration.

And in the tournament, Abde came to be the protagonist and has been the great reference, leaving a message to Xavi that he can be differential. With the captain’s armband, he has accumulated three goals (top scorer) and three assists in five games. Against Egypt, he tried to generate danger despite receiving a very hard marking at times. In fact, his rival went ahead with a great goal from Saber. However, the Egyptian almost immediately made a very dangerous tackle on Abde himself which, through VAR, cost him his expulsion.

From there, Morocco took command and achieved a draw. A cross from El Khannouss, the 18-year-old talent from Genk who was also in the World Cup, was finished off by Begraoui to make it 1-1. It seemed the time for the locals, but they found a rival who fought until the last moment. With a very active Abde, generating much of the Moroccan danger, Egypt defended itself until taking the duel to extra time.

In that extra time everything was decided. In the discount of the first part of extra time, the entire Rabat stadium held its breath. Abde was preparing to launch a dangerous free kick, despite the fact that in the previous ones he had not had any luck. He decided, in this case, to fake the shot and give a pass so that Targhalline hit him with everything and the ball slipped into Hamza Alaa’s goal. The title stayed in Morocco in a magical year for soccer in the North African country. With Abde and his companions as national heroes.

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