Younes Oudghough says he had one wish, ahead of this year's men's soccer World Cup: that he wouldn't have to choose a side between his two favourite teams.
"I told my friends, I told them I just don't want Canada and Morocco being in the same group because I'm going to have a brain aneurysm thinking about [it]," the Yellowknife man said.
"So much conflicting emotions."
Oudghough didn't exactly get his wish, and nor did he have a brain aneurysm. He'll be up early on Thursday morning to watch the two teams play what will be Canada's final game at the men's World Cup.
"I was going for both. I was hoping that both will make it and pull off some some kind of a big upset, but unfortunately Canada got disqualified," he said.
Oudghough, a self-described hardcore soccer fan, is originally from Morocco and has lived in Yellowknife since 2011. He's proud of the Moroccan team and equally impressed by Canada this year. It's Canada's first men's World Cup since 1986.
After losses to Belgium and Croatia, the Canadians have been mathematically eliminated from advancing to the round of 16, which begins Saturday in Qatar.
Morocco, however, will still go through with a win or a draw. That's why Oudghough has decided to pull for that team on Thursday — it's still got a shot in this tournament, even if it's a long one.
"We are the underdog, right, and we are in the group where we have all these big teams. So people always love a good story about the underdog beating the big guys, right?" Oudghough said.
Morocco is playing in its fifth men's World Cup; it has made the round of 16 only once, in 1986.
Thursday's game starts at 8 a.m. MT — not exactly party time, but Oudghough plans to have about a dozen friends over to his house to watch. Most of them are Moroccan-Canadians like him, he said, and have been equally invested in every game. Oudgough expects things to get loud and rowdy.
"Every game that Morocco played, whether it's at 3:00 a.m. or 6:00 a.m., we all wake up and we all chat through social media during the game," Oudghough said.
"So I know everybody is excited and involved in this."
He says he's "cautiously optimistic" about Morocco's chances on Thursday. That team may have more to lose at this point — but Oudghough worries that pressure could work against them when they're up against the already-disqualified Canadians.
Canada has nothing left to lose, he said, and so will play "with no pressure at all." At the same time, the Canadians will want to leave the tournament on a high note.
"So they will give it all, and I'm 100 per cent sure of this. So that's why it scares me," Oudghough said.
"And knowing the players who play for Canada, we have to be really, really careful."