Yassine Bounou anchoring Morocco’s magical World Cup run

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closely, there are signs of Gianluigi Buffon about Yacine “Bono” Bounou, Morocco goalkeeper, whom the Atlas Lions world Cup The finalists are not Buffon’s twins, but they could easily be brothers. The mop of dark hair, the chiseled profile, the skin tone of the face, the same height and his large, portly frame attract outdoorsmen who, back in the day, could have built a cabin, fenced a field and could drive horses or drive logs into the river. in the middle of winter

They are hardworking men.

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It is also true that the last team to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup, conceding only once in five tournament matches – Bono and Morocco’s current record – was in 2006, with Buffon in goal, as Italy (against 2-0, 1-1, 2-0, 1-0, 3-0 Ghana, United States of america, czech republic, Australia And ukraine) eventually won the tournament that year.

The slightly scary fact that Italy met Zinedine Zidane France in Berlin, 16 years earlier, after conceding his only goal on the way to the final (to Cristian Zaccardo against the U.S.). Meanwhile, Morocco, already the first Arab and first African nation to compete in the semi-finals of the World Cup, also saw Bono only to be beaten by an own goal when he was beaten by a teammate. Naif Aguird against Canada,

You can choose which bizarre story elements surprise the World Cup semifinalist: the fact that his surname isn’t Bono, but Bouno, or that he speaks English with an Arabic accent, but a very different one. Spanish with an Argentine accent; The fact that the football club he is most passionate about is the Buenos Aires Giants River bank, The fact is that prior to this contest, his greatest notoriety was shouting made-up words in relation to penalties”.Kirikocho!” Feather erling holland for trying to stop the Norwegian star from scoring; The fact that this Moroccan man was actually born not only in a different country, but across the continent (Montreal, Canada); Or that her dog looks like it’s named after a Disney mermaid, but it’s actually not.

However, if there’s one defining characteristic about this 31-year-old who learned to play soccer on the climbs of a Casablanca supermarket parking lot where he and his friends pulled giant garbage containers to build goalposts, it’s his profound humility. He is so down to earth and simple that despite being a Europa League winner by then, when Youssef An-Nesri – whose high jump and top goal put Morocco through to Wednesday’s semi-final against France – joined SevilleBono was genuinely concerned that the newly arrived striker would not be his friend.

“Joseph is like my little brother,” Bono once told me. “Whatever bothers him bothers me, and so does whatever pleases him. I see it as a great honor to play for club and country alongside a great footballer, but The day he arrived, I was nervous. I didn’t know if we would get along or whether he would actually get on with the rest of the squad, knowing he has ‘quite a personality’.”

When you interview this likeable, talented, low-key man, you’d do well to get an anecdote or even look behind his innocent poker face. Mind you, this isn’t a criticism: I was 10 feet away from him at the Education City Stadium when he was told he’d be named player of the match for his solid performance and two penalty saves (from) carlos solar And Sergio Busquets) that ended spain,

Watching the incident was low-key comedy. Players from Muslim countries don’t pose with a Budweiser background for their MOTM interviews, so it felt like any old post-match interview. And when Bono answered the first question with “I’m so happy for the team…” it was delivered with a completely blank face, devoid of any joyous expression, and with a flat, monotone voice that seemed to The homage could have been the super sounds of ’70s K-Billy from “Reservoir Dogs” (or the deadpan comedian, Steven Wright, who played him).

until morocco is wiped out portugal, Boy, were things different. Player of the match again, Bono was beaming from ear to ear. There was no enthusiasm in his voice, but the moment was brimming with the impact of what he and his national team had achieved.

First, Midfielder yahya forcibly The so-called “Flash” burst into the interview, wrapped in a Moroccan flag, and grabbed Bono so he could plant a kiss on her cheek. The keeper’s demeanor was nonchalant, but his look was telling. Ah you big galut… I’ll allow it this time, Seconds later, when asked who he would gift his award to, he not only nominated his “little brother,” club teammate and winning scorer An-Nesri, but also pulled the striker into the interview and gave him handed over the trophy so they could pose together again, after which Bono exited the spotlight.

It was a classic Bono thing to do; Eventually, he returned to finish the interview, but this time with his two-year-old son, Isaac, in his arms. The child, thinking the microphone was a large lollipop, twice tried to lick or bite the thing much to the amusement of his father.

So far this theme of family has been huge for Moroccans. There have been sensational images of players in the stands searching for their loved ones, usually their mothers, and celebrating with unbridled emotion. Little Isaac Bounou and his father left the interview area and Al Thumama jumped onto the pitch so they could kick a ball.

Imagine when the child sees those images in later life: what he will feel, what he will owe to his dear father. Imagine what Yasin Bono felt there and then in that shared moment of ecstasy. uncountable.

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Gabe Marcotti praised Morocco for the win against Spain, but criticized Luis Enrique for tactical decisions in the defeat.

Coach Walid Regragui had a good explanation for that topic: “Before Qatar, we had a strategy meeting about whether or not to bring families with us. Based on our experience in 2018, we decided to bring families Chosen the option. Some players have kids, while some prefer to live with their parents. We have done a good job in that regard.

“When you win, there’s no negativity, everyone’s happy, but if you lose, people will say ‘Why did you bring up the families?’ But the power of the family spirit is something we want to bring to the pitch: so far, it’s working very well.”

Pleasant view, indeed. There will certainly be jubilation if Regargui’s team win at the Al Bayt Stadium on Wednesday and unquestionably become the biggest underdog story in 92 years of World Cup history.

Bono’s goals against record has certainly been helped by the fact that the men in front of him have allowed only 11 attempts on goal in 510 competitive minutes in Qatar. This means the availability — and it is very difficult to imagine that both make it — of first-choice central defenders. Romain Sais and Aguerd can be hugely influential in which team moves forward to meet Argentina either Croatia,

It is also notable that this semi-final is the first competitive meeting between France and Morocco. That said, the Atlas Lions will always have Casablanca, where they beat les blues 6–5 on penalties after a 2–2 friendly match in the warm-up weeks before World Cup ’98.

Initially, of course, Bono would just be praying for an inspired performance and a win. But on another level he will be pleading with football’s fate that in the final he and Morocco could be up against Argentina: a country and a footballing culture he adores.

When he was little, Bono’s parents gave him a Gabriel Batistuta shirt — Bono was a striker long before he became a keeper — and so far his favorite player of all time is Ariel “The Little Donkey” Ortega, whose The latter is the name of the family dog ​​(not Ariel from “The Little Mermaid”).

when Boca Juniors vs river platesuperclásico“The Copa Libertadores final, the second leg, was moved to the Santiago Bernabéu in Madrid four years ago, Bono was somehow able to obtain two tickets. River won on aggregate 5–2: victory over Fiesta took.

Even more dedicated: Bono and some friends, wearing River Plate shirts, fly Japan for the World Club Cup final in 2015. los millionaires Defeated 3-0 by Luis Enrique barcelonaWhich, if you think about it, means that the elimination of the same coach’s Spain team last week was something of a revenge that Bono acted coldly.

Sevilla teammate and potential rival Papu Gomez has been heard telling people in Lionel Scaloni’s squad when Messi and company take on Morocco in Sunday’s final: “Bono? He’s more Argentine than me!” It can be accounted for”Kirikocho!“Anecdote.

Carlos Bilardo was the coach of Argentina when Albiceleste Won the World Cup in 1986. During Bilardo’s club career, he alleged, ‘a fan namedKirikocho‘ (or something similar), which he hated to see in the stadium because Bilardo believed that fellow brought bad luck. Bilardo’s extreme hatred for the name meant for a generation of Argentine footballers of a certain age,”Kirikocho!“became a word by means of which you wished misfortune to anyone to whom you shouted it.

When Sevilla clashed with Bono in goal Borussia Dortmund The keeper (who has never even been to Argentina) shouted in the Champions League last year.Kirikocho!‘ Three times in Haaland the giant Norwegian ran in to take penalties. Bono made the save, which was heavily applauded, but the referee ruled that it would have to be a re-take. Haaland shoutedKirikocho!back at Sevilla’s keeper immediately before scoring the retake, and then ran up to Bono and jeered and booed the beaten keeper. The two men buried the hatchet postmatch, with Haaland admitting he did not know the term What did he mean, or why Bono had yelled at him, but he had decided to get revenge.

It was Bono’s most famous penalty, at least until Morocco played Spain in Education City. Then, over the weekend, Portugal came and went. Now it’s France’s turn.

For all the talk about being born in Canada, his love for Argentina, and a career that flourished in Spain, Bono is a Casablanca boy at heart. Beat France in the semi-finals, and from now on the nameless streets of Morocco will bear Bono’s name.



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