Playing seven games at one World Cup is priceless, says Regragui

Morocco have had an historic campaign at this year’s World Cup and are hoping for one last hurrah in the 3rd-place game.

Morocco coach Walid Regragui
Morocco coach Walid Regragui has overseen an historic World Cup campaign[Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

Morocco may not have reached the World Cup final but players and supporters can take pride in the fact that they played seven games in Qatar, a first for any African nation, coach Walid Regragui said on Friday.

The North Africans’ dream run at the World Cup ended after defeat by reigning champions France in the semifinals but they still have the opportunity to leave Qatar on a high when they take on Croatia in the third-place playoff on Saturday.

Regragui said he would not make too many changes to the squad as that would upset the team balance but admitted it was a difficult and complicated game for two teams being asked to play after the disappointment of losing semifinal matches.

“I understand it’s important to finish third rather than fourth, but my takeaway is we didn’t reach the final … We wanted to play the final on Sunday, not play tomorrow,” Regragui said.

“But I told my players this is our seventh World Cup game. If you told any Morocco fan we would be playing our seventh game on December 17, they would be proud.

“Morocco played six World Cup games in 20-odd years and now we’ve played six games in a month – this is priceless. It’s as if we played two World Cups or even more, that’s beautiful from an experience point of view.”

Morocco became the first African team to reach the World Cup semifinals [AP Photo/Martin Meissner]

Regragui said Croatia were a formidable team even if they had not been favoured to repeat their 2018 run, when they finished runners-up in Russia. Their dreams were crushed by Lionel Messi’s Argentina in the semifinal.

“We knew Croatia were going to be one of the best teams in the competition. After the first game (where Morocco and Croatia drew 0-0 in the group stage) we knew the performance was very good,” Regragui said.

“There was a lot of hesitation for the first game … Both teams will want to win it (on Saturday) and it will be a great game.”

The game could be Croatian midfielder Luka Modric’s last with the national team and Regragui praised the Real Madrid man who is still going strong at 37.

“I don’t know if it’s Modric’s last game, he’s a competitive warrior and will want to finish his World Cup in style,” Regragui said. “Hats off to Modric. What he’s doing at 37 is monumental. He was a Ballon d’Or winner and I completely understand why.”

Source: Reuters