FOR supporters of Morocco and neutrals, their thrilling performance in defeat was a bittersweet way to end the most incredible story of the World Cup.
And for fans and managers of Premier League players of the past, present and future, there were also mixed feelings.
Poor David Moyes. The West Ham boss’ hopes were raised and then dashed before the game even started.
Nayef Aguerd has managed just four appearances for the Hammers since being signed for £30m in the summer because of an ankle injury.
But he had been outstanding for Morocco before a hamstring problem ruled him out of the quarter-final.
Last night he was named in the starting line-up, only to tweak it again in the warm-up, leaving Moyes to wonder when he will be ready to start his first Premier League game.
Wolves fans will have felt a pang of sympathy when their ex-defender Romain Saiss left the field after 20 minutes with his own hamstring issue.
Southampton supporters watched Sofiane Boufal, one of a string of club-record signings to underwhelm, giving his all for a place in the World Cup Final.
A penny, too, for the thoughts of Chelsea fans.
The poor finish that Hakim Ziyech produced in the 17th minute will be all too familiar.
BETTING SPECIAL – BEST BETTING APPS FOR THE WORLD CUP
But the passion and energy he showed and has shown throughout this tournament were compelling.
Yet three Blues managers have failed to bring the best out of him consistently and he may well leave in January.
On the bright side, for Moroccan and English football, there is the prospect of others following in their team-mates’ footsteps.
Leicester are among the clubs said to be chasing Azzedine Ounahi, 22, who once more looked like a high-quality, all-action midfielder.
Fiorentina’s Sofyan Amrabat, younger brother of former Watford winger Nordin, showed why Atletico Madrid, Spurs and Liverpool are looking at him.
From goalkeeper Yassine Bounou to centre forward Youssa En-Nesyri, most of the Morocco players have at times shown the potential to join Paris Saint-Germain’s Achraf Hakimi in the category of superstar.
Investment in football is paying off. In 2007, King Mohammed VI put £12m of his own money in an academy that bears his name.
It kickstarted the revolution that has led to Morocco becoming the first Arab or African country to reach the last four of the World Cup.
Last night may have felt like an ending, but it may be just the beginning.
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