(MENAFN- The Peninsula)
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Morocco are chasing history.
The North Africans are seeking to reach the knockout stage of the World Cup for the first time in nearly four decades.
A win or a draw against the already eliminated Canada in their final Group F match at Al Thumama Stadium today will see the Atlas Lions reach the Round of 16 for the first time since 1986.
Morocco coach Walid Regragui said today's match resembles a final.
“It will be like playing a final,” Regragui told a news conference on the eve of the match.“Canada have nothing to lose. They are already out and it is up to them to hold their heads high. We also have a lot to get out of the game and a lot to lose.”
Morocco began their Qatar 2022 campaign with a goalless draw against the 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia before sealing an upset 2-0 win over Belgium on Sunday – it was their first World Cup win in 24 years.
Regragui said his players are motivated to fly the African flag high.
African champions Senegal qualified from Group A after beating Ecuador on Tuesday and Morocco have a good chance to join them in the next round.
“Senegal showed us a great path, we want to go through and move forward,” said Regragui.
“Morocco is my priority, Morocco and Moroccans. (But) we hope to fly the flag of African football high.
“Often African football has been described as sub-par, not as good as elsewhere, but we've shown we can give anyone a run for their money.”
Morocco are second in Group F, level on four points with leaders Croatia, who face Belgium, on three points, while Canada are bottom with no points.
If Canada win, Morocco will need Belgium to beat Croatia in the other Group F match today, with the goal difference determining if they or Croatia advance.
“We don't want to have an eye on the Croatia and Belgium match to decide our own fate, we (need to) give everything we've got so we have no regrets at the end,” the Moroccan coach said.
“Either a win or a draw, this is what we need. I don't care what Canada need. They want to make their own history. Now it is our role to demonstrate that we are worthy of advancing.
“It would be an error to go in and give it 20 or 30%. We face a team who want to win it. We are there to win as well. Looking for the draw would be a mistake.
“We'll give everything we've got. Our players want to make history and will give 110 percent to ensure the Moroccan population is happy.”
Regragui also revealed a reason why his players are jelling well.
“Before we got here we had a strategy meeting, to bring families with us or not,” said Regragui.
“Based on our experience in 2018, along with our technical team, we chose the option to bring the families. Some players have kids, some would rather have their parents with them. We did a good job in that regard. When you win, there's no negatives, everyone is happy, but if you lose they will say - 'Why did you bring the families?' Read Also
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“We meet them after the game and then we concentrate on the next one.
“The spirit of family off the pitch, we want to bring that onto the pitch, and until now it's functioning very well.”
Canada are playing in only their second World Cup despite two defeats coach John Herdman said his team have made progress.
Canada lost to Belgium and scored their first-ever goal at World Cup in the 4-1 defeat against Croatia.
“It's an opportunity to keep stepping forward,” Herdman told the media.
“We'll stay committed to our identity and go into this match with an opportunity to make some more history. We've been enjoying the ride and we know there's not long left, the players are excited for their families, to try and step into the stadium and try to have one of those moments.
“We watched the celebrations back, we watched Alphonso's [Davies] goal together, to be proud of moments like that because there's more to come.”
“We're a football country, we're there. You can't deny that, and we will push tomorrow [today] to keep proving that,” Herdman added.
Canada will host the 2026 tournament with the United States and Mexico.
When: Today at 4:00pm
Where: Al Thumama Stadium (Capacity: 44,400)
- Alphonso Davies scored Canada's first ever goal at a men's World Cup in a 4-1 Group F loss to Croatia.
- Back in the World Cup after their only previous appearance in 1986, Canada head into their meeting with Morocco still seeking a maiden win.
- Canada topped the CONCACAF qualifying table, scoring more and conceding fewer goals than any other team.
- Morocco became the first African team to advance out of the group stage of a World Cup in 1986.
- Morocco's 2-0 Group F win over Belgium marked their first World Cup victory since they beat Scotland in 1998.
- Canada and Morocco have met three times, all international friendlies, with the North Africans winning two and the other match ending in a draw.