Under that pressure, Bounou, or “Bono,” as he likes to be called, almost thrived. settling into his position as goalkeeper, smiling as his opponents approached him, and remaining equal to three penalties.
The expectations of Morocco, the Middle Easterner world, and Africa lay on Yassine Bounou’s shoulders as the spotlight fell on him during Morocco’s punishment shootout win over Spain in the round of 16 of the World Cup.
Under that pressure, Bounou, or “Bono,” as he likes to be called, almost thrived. Tranquilly having his spot in objective, smiling as his adversary’s approached him, and remaining equivalent to three punishments, which would have been four having speculated ideal for Pablo Sarabia’s spot-kick that hit the post, to bring his country into their very first World Cup quarterfinal.
Afterward, his teammates and manager gave him credit, with midfielder Azzedine Ounahi describing him as “one of the best goalkeepers in the world.” However, for the most part, Bounou was content to be in the background. He didn’t need to speak up or praise himself as highly as his teammates; he let his teammates enjoy the moment. After the game, he stated, “There is not much else. For the penalties, it is about instinct and a little luck.”
Bounou’s calm, self-assured presence in goal has been crucial to Morocco’s remarkable World Cup run, which saw them top a group that included European heavyweights like Belgium and Croatia, despite his humility after what was the greatest footballing moment in his nation’s history. By making crucial saves against Spain, he had already played a significant role. In four matches against top-tier opponents, the defense in front of him, which included Achraf Hakimi, Noussair Mazraoui, Nayef Aguerd, and Romain Saiss, only allowed one goal.
Ironically enough, that goal was scored by Aguerd himself against Canada. Bounou, who was born in Montreal, once had the chance to represent Canada. However, after his family moved back to their home country when he was a child, he chose Morocco instead. At Wydad Casablanca, where he got his big break, he showed enough promise for Atletico Madrid to sign him.
Before being called up to the senior team, he had agreed to play for the B team in Spain’s second division for two years, but he never made an appearance. Instead, he spent that time on loan with Real Zaragoza, a team in the second division, before signing a three-year contract with Girona as a permanent player.
Before getting a big move to Sevilla, where his one-year loan became a permanent one, Bounou had to earn his stripes in Spain’s second division, despite a promising youth career. Both his humble demeanor and his rekindled enthusiasm for Morocco show that he has put in a lot of work.
Even though he doesn’t talk much off the field, his natural leadership is evident in the way he has led his back four to be the best World Cup defense. Each member of this team, including Bounou, has unquestionably become a Moroccan hero, regardless of whether he enjoys the spotlight.
The remarkable record of penalty saver Bounou makes him something of a spot-kick specialist for Morocco. Bounou saved two penalties in a 2021 Champions League matchup with Sevilla and Salzburg FC. He prevented five of the 13 penalties he faced that year.
His total save percentage from the spot is 26 percent, which is a very useful rate. Prior to the game against Spain, he had saved 13 of the 50 penalties he had to deal with. Maybe his poise in objective had to do with faith in his own capacities, which is likewise might be the reason, as Bounou uncovered after the game, mentor Walid Regragui didn’t have the side practice such a large number of punishments.
Portugal, Morocco’s opponents in the quarterfinals, will be wary of Bounou’s skills in goal and on penalties in general. Their less experienced goalkeeper Diogo Costa will give Bounou the advantage if the game is close and goes to a shootout. Bounou will be watching to get another chance to make history for his country.