Moghreb Tetouan’s FIFA Club World Cup debut ended in disappointment on Thursday evening as they went down on penalties to Auckland City, the side that has made more appearances in the competition than any other.
One man to miss out in the shootout that followed the goalless draw between the teams was 23-year-old defender Mehdi Khallati, who struck his side’s fifth penalty against the post.
Speaking afterwards to FIFA.com, he said: “I was pretty confident and I didn’t look at the keeper at all. He dived the wrong way and my shot hit the post. You can score 100 penalties in a row and then miss the most important one of all.”
A cruel twist
Though the luckless Moroccans had the support of their fans throughout, it was not enough to take them past the New Zealanders.
Lamenting his side’s misfortune from the spot, Khallati added: “Luck wasn’t on our side this time, and in this sport you need a bit of it to change the course of games sometimes. It’s the post that sent Auckland City through to the quarter-finals.”
The young defender, who one day hopes to play for his country and move to a major European club, has nevertheless learned a lot from Thursday’s deflating experience: “Today I discovered that there’s no logic in football. You can be the better side and still lose on penalties. That’s why it's so important to take your chances, to get in front and stay there.”
The Tangier-born Khallati had been dreaming of meeting Real Madrid in the final and coming face to face with his role model Sergio Ramos, an encounter he believes is within his reach one day.
“There are good and bad things we can take from this Club World Cup," he said. “We’ve still got some big goals to achieve and maybe we’ll find ourselves back in this competition in the future. After all, there’s no reason why we can’t go and win the Champions League next season. On a personal level, I’m going to try and keep on improving, become the best defender in the team and start an international career.”
A sudden end
Tetouan’s best player on the night was fellow defender Serigne Fall, who explained how he sought solace in music in the wake of his side’s exit: “Bob Marley sang No Woman No Cry and I told my team-mates not to cry because we’ve got our whole future ahead of us. Even so, I’m going to be shedding a few tears because I’ve let the Moghreb Tetouan fans down. They thought we could go all the way.”
The Senegalese turned in a flawless performance at the back, but had cause to regret his team-mates wayward finishing at the other end of the pitch. Had the game gone the Moroccans’ way, it could well have been him picking up the man of the match award instead of Auckland City centre-half Ivan Vicelich.
Attempting to stay positive, Fall said: “There are a lot of lessons for us to learn from this game, and the first of them is that we can be a little unadventurous at times. In a knockout match and in a competition like this, you have to take a lot more risks.”
Though their exit was sudden and their dreams of emulating Raja Casablanca’s run to last year’s final have gone, Tetouan have youth on their side and time enough to atone.