FIFA is reportedly attempting to cover up footage of Morocco star Achraf Hakimi confronting president Gianni Infantino following the World Cup third-place play-off to Croatia.
Hakimi’s Morroco, who stunned the tournament with their magical run to the semi-finals, were unable to earn the bronze medal in Qatar after superb goals from Josko Gvardiol and Mislav Orsic gave Croatia victory at Khalifa International Stadium on Saturday. While they could’ve blamed themselves for a slew of missed chances, Morocco were furious with the officiating in the hotly-contested match.
Central to their anger was the fact the Atlas Lions were denied a penalty for handball when striker Youssef En-Nesyri’s header hit Bruno Petkovic – only for replays to show the ball hit his back. Morocco were also left fuming when Hakimi went down under a challenge from the same Croatian forward, who didn’t receive a booking as Qatari referee Abdulrahman Al-Jassim waved play on.
Post-match protests ensued on the pitch, with Walid Regragui’s men letting their emotions get the better of them. But even when Hakimi left the field, FIFA’s much-maligned head honcho still felt his wrath. According to beIN Sports, the Paris Saint-Germain right-back pleaded with Infantino – who was waiting to hand Croatia their medals – about the refereeing in ‘polite and desperate’ fashion.
Although tensions are said to have relaxed when Hakimi’s teammates walked him away, it’s additionally been alleged that FIFA is attempting to stop the footage from reaching the public. “They wanted us to delete the images,” SVT Sports reporter Johan Kucukaslan claimed. “It is clear that these are embarrassing scenes for them, and it is a bit naive of them to think that a dozen journalists should not report on this when we witness it happening.”
It’s not the first time that Morocco have felt hard done by, as in their 2-0 semi-final defeat by France they were again left raging at the referee. The fact FIFA has just awarded them with the 2023 Club World Cup will likely do little to console them, although boss Regragui attempted to lift the nation’s spirits post-match, having beaten Belgium, Spain and Portugal in their seven-game campaign.
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“Before the tournament, we were given 0.01 per cent chance of doing this, and we got to the last four,” the Morocco manager affirmed. “We are now one of the top four teams in the world and if you had told me that before the tournament, I would have taken it. I would not have changed anything.
“Croatia are now one of the top three sides in the world and they were slightly stronger than us, as were France, which is no disgrace. We’ve had to catch up and have spent the last 10 years trying to do that. We also learned a lot from playing Belgium, Spain and Portugal. We have shown we can go toe-to-toe with some of these top teams.
“This should inspire other African countries. It is in the DNA of European teams to reach the last stages and we have to develop that in our DNA too. Then, one day, we can win the World Cup.”