By changing coach last August, the Moroccan team took an obvious risk. Succeeding Vahid Halilhodzic, who had nevertheless qualified the Moroccans for this 2022 World Cup in Qatar, was not sportingly obvious. But in the space of a few weeks, Walid Regragui, with clear ideas, managed to hoist this African nation to the semi-finals. An authentic feat engraved forever. In the columns of The Teamthe 47-year-old technician tried to take stock of this planetary competition.
A vast project before and during the World Cup for Morocco
Double or quits. By appointing a coach who certainly had the wind in his sails with the national title, the African Champions League and a Cup final on the side of Wydad Casablanca, but inexperienced (as a coach) from an international point of view, the Moroccan Federation took a risk. A measured risk, some would say. Still, Walid Regragui had his work cut out for him upon his arrival. It’s necessary “define a style” and “tell players what I expect of them“, explained the native of Corbeil-Essonnes. While managing the case Hakim Ziyech, the Chelsea player, cold with Vahid Halilhodzic, who “was upset about the situation” and “no longer answer“.
In a pool made up of Belgium, Croatian vice-world champions and a surprising Canada, Morocco could clearly dread taking the front door. “I told my players: ‘We have a team that can beat anyone.’ The goal is then to convince them of that. Upon arrival, I think they believed it more than normal. (…) The hardest part for us was therefore the group stage“, thus considered Regragui aware that something big was perhaps happening after this qualification for the round of 16.
“At half-time, I told my players that France were the worst team,” reveals Regragui
In the eighth, Morocco eliminated Spain. “It’s the best team we’ve played. If we don’t take them out, they can go all the way“, analyzed Walid Regragui. Then Portugal in the quarter-finals. “My guys after Portugal said to themselves: “We are going to take this Cup”, dropped the former right side of AC Ajaccio. In the semi-finals, the French team therefore blocked the way of the Atlas Lions.
“At half-time, I told my players that it was the worst team since the start of the knockout matches. Attention, I am talking about this match, of course, not about France in general, which is a great team! That’s why there was this regret at the end, but I’m not naive. The very very high level, you always think that you are not far but, in fact, you are far. The step was a little too high for us.“
Walid Regragui, the coach of Morocco, on the France team, in the columns of L’Equipe.
Finally fourth in Qatar, Morocco marked the history of an entire kingdom. During the return to the country, the emotion was at the rendezvous: “These mothers, these grandmothers, these little girls, these little boys… There, you understand that you even touched people far from football, that you made a people proud.“Now Walid Regragui, revitalized, has his eyes fixed on the next big deadline:”The objective is to win the CAN in Côte d’Ivoire (early 2024, editor’s note)”. The scene is set. The appetite, intact.