Moroccans across the world celebrate historic World Cup victory over Spain

© Mosa'ab Elshamy, AP

Exuberant Moroccans poured into the streets of their capital and in cities across Europe on Tuesday, waving flags and honking horns to celebrate their national soccer team's historic victory over Spain at the World Cup.

Morocco defeated Spain in a penalty shootout, making the Atlas Lions the only team from outside Europe or South America to make it to the quarterfinals in Qatar – and the first Arab team in World Cup history to make it to the last eight.

“We are so proud of our Lions, who fought hard to get us into the quarterfinals,” said Niama Meddoun, a Rabat resident. “We are delighted to be Moroccans today, since we are the first Arab country that has reached the quarterfinals."

The King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, praised the national team and sent his “heartfelt congratulations” to the players, the technical team and administrative personnel, “who gave their all and blazed a trail throughout this great sporting event,” according to a statement from the royal palace.

The king said the players represented “hopes and dreams of Moroccans in Morocco, Qatar, and all over the world.”

Morocco is the only Arab – and African – nation left in the tournament, the first World Cup held in the Middle East. Its World Cup success has reverberated across the Arab world and among Moroccan and some other immigrant communities in Europe.

“Today is a day of joy for Moroccans and all the Arab world,” Lotfi said. “It was a heart-attack finish that could have gone either way.”

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