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Who is Morocco manager Walid Regragui? The mastermind & tactics behind African side's shock World Cup success

4:31 PM GMT 14/12/2022
Walid Regragui Morocco flag World Cup
Morocco head coach Walid Regragui is receiving well-deserved praise at the 2022 World Cup amid an unexpected run deep into the knockout stage.

Morocco hired Walid Regragui at the end of August in a moment of turmoil, with some of their most recognisable stars having pledged to never play again internationally and a difficult World Cup group awaiting in less than three months.

Not only did Regragui need to regain the faith of his players, but he also needed to deal with a skeptical local press that branded him "avocado head" to mock his bald appearance before he got the chance to prove himself.

Regragui has done more than any of his critics could have ever imagined, becoming both the first African and Arab manager to reach a World Cup quarter-final. He defeated Spain and Portugal to advance to Wednesday's semi-final.

GOAL takes a look at the man who has inspired an entire nation with his team's performances.

Where was Morocco coach Walid Regragui born?

He was born in Corbeil-Essonnes, France, but grew up visiting relatives in Morocco. He became a full Morocco international as a player.

His path is similar to many in the 2022 World Cup team who were born in other nations but have familial ties to Morocco.

"Today, we have shown that every Moroccan is Moroccan," he said after the last-16 win over Spain. "When [someone] comes to the national team, when they come with their passport, he wants to die, he wants to fight for their country.

"As the coach, I was born in France, but nobody can have my heart for my country."

Indeed, part of his appeal has been his ability to unite the country behind the squad, as evidenced by grand celebrations in the streets of the capital after World Cup wins.

How old is Morocco's manager?

Regragui is 47 years old and just 11 years removed from his playing career.

Where did Walid Regragui spend his playing career?

Regragui's most notable stops were in France and Spain, where he played primarily as a full-back at clubs such as Toulouse and Racing Santander.

He also gathered 45 caps with Morocco's national team.

Where did Walid Regragui manage before Morocco?

After spending time as an assistant on Morocco's staff following his retirement as a player, he worked his way up through the ranks in African and Arab football, coaching at FUS, Al-Duhail and Wydad AC.

Regragui's success at the latter club, where he won the CAF Champions League, drew the attention of Morocco's international team.

How did Walid Regragui get the Morocco job?

With predecessor Vahid Halidhodzic's situation becoming untenable this year amid strife with players and his federation that led Hakim Ziyech to quit Morocco, the nation sacked Halilhodzic in August.

Rather than hire a coach of European decent, as has historically happened often with teams from Africa at the World Cup, Morocco chose Regragui with hopes his defence-first style could translate to success at the tournament.

Despite a group that included Croatia, Belgium and an upstart Canadian team, Regragui never showed fear.

"I think Africans can go far, why not dream of winning the cup?" he told reporters early in the competition. "We want the next generation to dare to dream."

What is Walid Regragui's tactical style with Morocco?

He is unapologetic about his emphasis on being solid in the back, and then worrying about getting forward on the counter-attack as needed. With attackers who have the flair to create chances out of nothing, it's a strategy that has reaped huge rewards.

Morocco have allowed just one goal from open play in Qatar - and that was an own goal.

“A lot of Europeans have criticised our style of play but that is because they don’t like to see an African team play cleverly," he said at a press conference. "They think African teams used to be fun but get knocked out. But those days are over now. There isn’t just one way of winning.

“Look at France against England, they didn’t create 40 opportunities, they were just effective. I don’t really care about expected goals or possession. We had 0.01 percent chance of winning the World Cup at the outset, now we have 0.03 but we are going to try and destroy statistics.”

How has Walid Regragui been so successful with Morocco?

The coach's tactics have been impressive, but his man management has been pointed to above all else as the reason Morocco play such cohesive football under a boss who joined only a few months ago.

The way the players lift him in the air after each upset victory underlines his dressing room popularity.

"I think he has shown that he is the best manager at this tournament, not just as a coach but as a man," said midfielder Ilias Chair. "Whenever you have a problem, we, the players, can go to him. At that moment he is our dad or our big brother, not just a coach."