Morocco’s coach Walid Regragui said on Tuesday that reaching the World Cup semifinal was not enough for his history-making side and that he hoped to cause an “upset” in their match against reigning champions France on Wednesday.
This is the first time that an Arab and African nation has made it to the semifinal of football’s biggest event in the 92-year history of the tournament.
Keep readinglist of 4 items
“We are playing the world champions with many world-class players and a very good coach,” the former national team player told reporters, adding that he wanted to “get rid of the mentality” of remaining satisfied with just reaching a certain level in the tournament.
“We will show great desire and try to pull off an upset. Why not reach the final of the World Cup? We can dream, it doesn’t cost you anything to have dreams,” he added, accompanied by midfielder Ilias Chair.
The coach, who once played for French team Toulouse, said the team was still “hungry” for more success despite not being “favourites” to lift the trophy.
“I don’t know if it will be enough … I know we are not favourites but we are confident,” Regragui added. “We’re going to fight to move on, for the African nations, for the Arab world.”
Morocco defeated top European teams Belgium, Spain and Portugal en route to the semifinal, having conceded only once, and that via an own goal.
Prior to their stunning success in Qatar, the first World Cup held in a Middle Eastern country, the team had reached the knockout stages only once in 1986, when it was eliminated in the round of 16 by Portugal.
‘Spirit’, ‘fans’ key
The 47-year-old said having “team spirit” was going to be key to preparing for the match tactically and mentally on Wednesday.
“Everyone wants to give their best in every game. We play a collective game with a good spirit,” Regragui said. “For me, that is the most important thing in football.”
The Morocco manager also said the country’s supporters, who have been among the most vocal and visible at the World Cup, will be “very important” for his side’s chance of success on Wednesday.
“We have the best fans in the world … maybe [together] with the Argentinian and Brazilian fans, they are crazy guys,” he said. “They are people who travel from anywhere in the world to support their country.”
“We’re going to play like being at home and that’s the most important thing in the world.”
Chair said it was a “great honour” to play in front of the Moroccan fans and he and his teammates wanted to make them “proud”.
Several key Atlas Lions players, including defender Roman Saisse, are injured and may miss the clash against Les Blues.
However, their French-born manager said the team had an “excellent medical staff” that was providing him with “good news every day”.
“We will have to wait until the last minute. No one is out but no one is definitely in either,” he added.
The semifinal will be played at Al-Bayt Stadium in Al Khor at 10pm local time (19:00 GMT).