Four instances in quarter-hour Walid Regragui spoke of profitable the World Cup. All had been preceded by what-if or why-not however from being the one believer, the Morocco coach has obtained a staff, a rustic, a continent and extra pondering that means.
Dreams price nothing, he mentioned. But in addition they imply nothing with out dollops of the can-do spirit and work. “The others won’t give it to us… The big European countries, they like to be among themselves and win the World Cup,” he mentioned.
Appointed lower than three months earlier than the match started, Regragui mentioned his first process was to weed out gamers for whom the World Cup was nearly being there. “The guy who comes here to play three games in the World Cup and have fun can’t come with me. The message was spread around my team, and in my country. Then it reached the continent. Now, I think the world is with Morocco,” he mentioned when requested concerning the journey from being a solitary dreamer to Pied Piper.
Since 1966, as per statistics supplier Opta, no coach has been in control of fewer video games on option to a World Cup semi-final than Regragui’s eight.
Two video games from realising Regragui’s dream, the Atlas Lions meet France in a World Cup semi-final on Wednesday. In 5 earlier makes an attempt, Morocco’s finest within the World Cup was an eleventh place in 1986, additionally the final time they obtained out of the group levels.
The first staff from Africa to make the World Cup semi-finals, Morocco’s has been an underdogs story, not seen since South Korea in 2002. “We are the Rocky in this tournament,” mentioned Regragui referring to the eponymous movie franchise.
En route, Morocco have handled damage setbacks (centre-back Nayef Aguerd and left-back Noussair Mazraoui weren’t accessible) and a barrage of assaults– they’ve performed 1613 passes in 5 video games; Spain performed 1043 in opposition to Costa Rica. In the 1-0 win in opposition to Portugal, with a low block 31% of the time and the center block 34%, they contained a staff that had Joao Felix, Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes. Goncalo Ramos, the scorer of the World Cup’s solely hattrick obtained two touches in Morocco penalty space.
But they’ve additionally hit again once they sensed a chance. “You can have less talent, less quality and less money, but if you have hope, work hard, fight and believe, you will be able to do anything,” mentioned Regragui. As Portugal pushed up, Morocco made extra last third entries by way of the center, 31%. In Azzedine Ounahi, they’ve a participant who can dribble, solely Lionel Messi has extra in Ligue 1, and Achraf Hakimi, whose membership mate Kylian Mbappe will now be on the opposite facet, started the second half with a robust run that drew out Pepe. When Diogo Costa failed to gather Youssef En-Neysri leapt tallest to attain.
Morocco drew in opposition to Croatia and beat Belgium, Canada, Spain and Portugal on option to the semi-final. No staff has been in a position to rating in opposition to them; the one aim they conceded in 5 video games was a self-goal in opposition to Canada. They have had solely 9 makes an attempt on aim and saved 4 clear sheets. “It’s not miracle, it’s hard work. The top teams haven’t found an antidote… It’s going to be hard to beat us,” mentioned Regragui.
This can be a message to the world that Moroccans can play, mentioned goalkeeper Yassine Bounou. “(We have shown that) Moroccan players can compete against anyone in the world. The generation after us will know that Moroccan players can do all this,” he mentioned.
Such as Yahia Attiyat Allah, Yahya Jabrane and Badr Benoun. They usually are not among the many 14 within the squad born outdoors Morocco and don’t play in Europe. Attiyat Allah and Jabrane are in Morocco and Benoun represents Qatar SC. “We must keep working with players born in Morocco,” mentioned Regragui.
Through their video games, the mantra “Sir, Sir” could be heard. “Get forward” is a unfastened translation and Morocco have accomplished that in a fashion that makes it scarcely plausible that they had been lacking the subsequent 4 editions of the World Cup after 1998. But it additionally exhibits how severe Morocco is about soccer.
Morocco has bid for each World Cup from 1994 to 2026. Since rejoining the African Union in 2017 after 33 years, Morocco has tried looking and soccer has been a automobile for that. “Since Morocco rejoined the [African Union]…they are taking positive steps to build strong ties with AU member nations,” Juneidi Basha, president of the Ethiopian Football Federation, was quoted as saying in aim.com
Morocco had left the Organisation of African Unity, AU’s predecessor, in 1984 protesting its recognition of Western Sahara. They returned following years of diplomatic efforts led by the king.
The state-of-the-art soccer coaching centre named after the king is the most important in Africa and is utilized by all of Morocco’s nationwide groups, and by groups from different international locations. It price almost $65 million. The Mohammed VI Football Academy was arrange in 2009 to assist groom gamers. Four gamers listed here are from the academy, mentioned Regragui. It can be obligatory for all 16 groups within the high tier of the Moroccan league to run youth growth programmes.
After beating Spain, Regragui spoke of the “efforts” remodeled 10 years in laying higher pitches and getting extra skilled coaches. “When you work, you are patient the results will show on the pitch.”
Results which obtained the king to affix celebrations on the streets. The actual occasion, although, Regragui will let you know, is but to come back.