AIPS* / SHARJAH: Morocco made history by qualifying for the second round of the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013 after defeating Panama 3-1 in their third and final game of group C.
After gaining four points from the first two matches, the Moroccan team needed one point against Panama to be sure of going through. Panama, on the other hand, were without points and virtually without a hope.
Moroccan coach Abdellah Idrissi sought to profit from this factor by resting some players and give chances to the others. Hence Younes Ben Merzouk started instead of Karim Achehbar and Bilal Jellal played in the place of Omar Arjoune.
Contrary to what was excepted, Panama began the game with a clear desire to win and they created a lot of danger in the first 15 minutes, especially through Werner Wald who crowned this work with a goal in the 20th minute.
The player who came to the rescue for Morocco was Juventus’ Younes Ben Marzouk who scored a beautiful goal on an individual effort in 31th minute. Nine minutes later, he was at it again with a second goal after a wonderful run and a cutback from winger Nabil Jaadi.
Morocco increased their lead at the start of the second half with a third goal by Hamza Sakhi, a ferocious shot in the top corner from a difficult angle.
In the following minutes the Moroccans had total control of the match and scored a lucky headed fourth goal by substitute Karim Achehbar with a header. Nabil Jaadi let fly from 25m and, when goalkeeper Jaime De Gracia pushed the ball onto the bar, the rebound fell for Achebar who scored his third goal of the tournament.
A few minutes later the Panama team reduced the result with a second goal by Erwin Zorilla, almost a copy of Morocco’s second goal.
Moroccan coach Abdellah El Idrissi acknowledged that this had been “a hard match” but that the mission of reaching the second round had been accomplished.
Panama’s Jorge Dely Valdes said he had always believed that Morocco would prove the best team in the group.
He added: “From the beginning they were superior to Croatia and even though it was 0-0 with Uzbekistan they still managed to show they were superior.
“It was the dream of our players to reach the second round and we’ll be back to try next time.
“For our players though it doesn’t end here, it’s a process. We have to give them continuity because we do have some good players and some will be able to participate in the under-20 category.
“This was a good experience for our players and I’m sure many will continue to work and be part of our football.”
* AIPS, the international sports journalists association, is running a Young Reporters course at the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013 with the support of the local organising committee and FIFA
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