Regragui Living A Dream But Wants More As Morocco Take On Po...| MENAFN.COM

Wednesday, 01 February 2023 05:47 GMT

Regragui Living A Dream But Wants More As Morocco Take On Portugal


(MENAFN- The Peninsula) #qatar 2022 #world cup teams ayeni olusegun | The Peninsula

Morocco head coach Walid Regragui has disclosed the Atlas Lions are looking to make history when they take on Portugal today at the Al Thumama Stadium in the quarter-final of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.

An African team has never reached the semi-finals of the World Cup; Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010) all failed to make it through the last-eight ties.

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“We want to go down in history with the mindset we've had from the start, with the quality of our performance. We can't rest on our laurels. We haven't gotten carried away. We have surprised a few people and algorithms that expected Belgium or Spain to go through. All these data and statistics think they can predict the winner of the World Cup, but we want them to know we are here,” Regragui said yesterday.

“It's a World Cup quarter-final, and the higher you go, the more difficult it is. We will play one of the biggest countries, with top players who play for big clubs and with one of the best players in history,” he added.

Morocco's coach Walid Regragui

Morocco's success has come under 46-year-old Regragui, who recently clinched the CAF Champions League with Wydad in May. He was only appointed in August and took charge of his first game just three months ago, after Vahid Halilhodvic was let go despite qualifying the Atlas Lions for the World Cup.

“It's an exceptional feeling,” Regragui said of being in the quarter-final.

“This is a great honour. We have made Morocco happy. We hope to make them happier tomorrow (today). We hope to become the first Arab and African nation to reach the semi-final. This team, everyone plays together, and that makes it easier. We are all brothers,” he added.

On his team's impact, Regrafui said,“People are identifying with us, and we are uniting Moroccan people. That is more important than money and titles. What I say to the players is we have made people happy, but that's not enough; we are here to win games and go as far as we can in this tournament.” Dismissing fatigue against Portugal, who beat the Moroccan team four years ago courtesy of a Cristiano Ronaldo goal, Regragui said despite being tired and bruised, the Atlas Lions will not complain.

“You need everyone if you are going to go far. No matter who plays, we will give our best and not make excuses.”

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo in action with teammates during training. Reuters

Portugal wary of strong Morocco

Meanwhile, Portugal coach Fernando Santos has stressed Morocco will pose a difficult challenge for the 2016 European champions. Portugal last qualified for the World Cup semi-final in 2006, where they lost to France.

According to Santos, the North Africans will present A Selecao with a different challenge.

“They are a very strong team, I don't care about favourites; they have played four matches and conceded just one and scored four goals. This is an organized team, with many players who play in some of the best clubs in the world.

“Only if you don't watch their previous game will you not know how good they are. Not only offensively but defensively. They play in small spaces. They have a player who is one of the best in this World Cup. The goalkeeper plays well with his feet. To think this would be an easy match with Portugal, it won't be,” Santos said.

Santos said his side remembers the win over Morocco in 2018 and called it“possibly the most difficult match” they played.

“We won 1-0, but we had to suffer a lot to win that match,” he said.“My players know that.” Joao Felix, who has been a revelation in Qatar after enduring a torrid spell at club side Atletico Madrid, said the players are focused on ensuring a positive result against Morocco today.

“I think not everything is bad when we lose, and when we win, not all is okay. It was a great victory against Switzerland, but we have to come back down and ensure that we have a good match against Morocco.

“I believe we can clearly see this is my first World Cup, and it is a competition every player wants. It's a dream to represent Portugal,” Felix said.

When: Today at 6:00pm

Where: Al Thumama Stadium

Capacity: 44,400

Key stats:
-Morocco are the first Arab nation to reach the World Cup quarter-finals and the fourth African team after Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010. Coach Walid Regragui became the first Arab manager to lead a team to the knockout rounds.
-Portugal's Goncalo Ramos, 21, scored the first hat-trick of this year's competition in their 6-1 win over Switzerland. He became the first player to score a hat-trick on his first World Cup start since Miroslav Klose for Germany in 2002.
-Morocco have yet to concede a goal from an opposition player at the tournament. The only goal against them in four games came in their 2-1 win over Canada, when defender Nayef Aguerd accidentally flicked a cross past his own goalkeeper.
-At 39 years and 283 days old, Portugal defender Pepe is now the oldest player to score in the World Cup knockout stage after his header against Switzerland in Tuesday's 6-1 victory.

Previous meetings:
The teams have met twice previously, both at the World Cup. Morocco won 3-1 in the 1986 group stage, while Cristiano Ronaldo scored the only goal in Portugal's 1-0 win in the group stage four years ago in Russia.

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