DOHA, Qatar — Morocco made historical past, however couldn’t make it previous Kylian Mbappé and France.
The primary African nation to achieve the semifinals of the World Cup was ultimately crushed by defending champions France, dropping 2-0 at Al Bayt Stadium on Wednesday.
There’s nonetheless the possibility to win the third place match towards Croatia on Saturday, however the dream of changing into the primary workforce from exterior of Europe or South America to go all the way in which to a last is over.
Morocco coach Walid Regragui and his gamers grew to become the unlikeliest story of the World Cup and even in defeat, pushed France all the way in which.
“My gamers gave every little thing. They’ve gone so far as they may,” mentioned Regragui. “They needed to rewrite the historical past books, however you’ll be able to’t win a World Cup with miracles, it’s a must to do it with laborious work and that’s what we’re going to do, hold working.”
Expectation vs. efficiency
Nobody may have anticipated Morocco to interrupt new boundaries for African soccer by making it to the semifinals.
It was additionally the primary Arab nation to go thus far at a World Cup.
And it did so on advantage – topping a gaggle that contained 2018 finalist Croatia and second-ranked Belgium, earlier than progressing previous favorites Spain and Portugal within the knockout levels.
However maybe Morocco’s finest efficiency got here towards France when it needed to cope with accidents to key gamers and conceding a purpose inside 5 minutes. Within the face of these challenges it nonetheless managed to stress France for lengthy intervals till Randal Kolo Muani’s 79th minute strike sealed the win for Les Bleus.
The efficiency typified Morocco’s spirit at this event and the standard of its gamers.
Regragui has received loads of admirers for his tactical acumen towards a few of the giants of worldwide soccer.
It will likely be attention-grabbing to see if any affords come his means from main membership groups in Europe – and whether or not he can be tempted to take up a brand new problem.
He says he’s dedicated to main Morocco on the 2023 African Cup of Nations, which is able to come as a reduction to the nation’s followers.
Key defender and captain Romain Saiss is 32 and should have performed in his final World Cup, however Morocco has lots of younger gamers, who may go once more in 4 years when the event is held in the USA, Canada and Mexico.
Midfielder Azz-Eddine Ounahi has been one of many brightest rising skills on the event and may very well be the topic of curiosity from main golf equipment in January or subsequent summer time.
At 22 he’s but to achieve his peak and at the moment performs his membership soccer for Angers, the underside membership in France’s first division.
Achraf Hakimi is already established at Paris Saint-Germain, however the 24-year-old proper again has the potential to develop additional and lead a golden era for Morocco.
To start with Morocco needs to spherical off an unforgettable World Cup by profitable its third place match towards Croatia.
Focus will then flip to the African Cup of Nations and Regragui is comfy with the added expectation after the success in Qatar.
“There’s extra stress. We all know that we had been typically the favorites, however now within the semifinals we could not conceal,” he mentioned. “I believe we could have a little bit of time to search out our means within the competitors. The subsequent match is in March.
“However like I mentioned earlier than, I’m not hiding. If we don’t get to at the very least the semifinals, then I’ll go away. It needs to be that means.”