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World Cup

Morocco need best version of Ziyech and won't focus on just Croatia's Modric - Coach Regragui

21:30 GMT+3 22/11/2022
230922 Marruecos Chile Hakim Ziyech y Nayel Mehssatou
Morocco coach Walid Regragui will be counting on Hakim Ziyech when the Atlas Lions face Croatia in their World Cup opener on Wednesday.
  • Morocco coach looking up to Ziyech against Croatia
  • The Chelsea winger is expected to be the difference maker
  • Atlas Lions take on the 2018 finalists in Wednesday’s first game

WHAT HAPPENED? Regragui’s side have a tough match against the 2018 finalists who have some of the world’s top players, including Real Madrid playmaker Luka Modric, and while he is confident in the qualities of his team, the former Wydad Casablanca coach expects the Chelsea winger to bring out his ‘A’ game.

WHAT DID HE SAY? “We have good players, I believe in our preparation in our collective, it will not be easy to play for sure,” Regragui said during his pre-match press conference on Tuesday.

“The Croats are the favourites in this match, they played the last final and have a Ballon d'Or in the person of Luka Modric. But we have players like Ziyech, Mazraoui or Boufal, we don't focus on Modric”.

“What is important is to be consistent in the game, with or without the ball. You have to know what to do with it, with the ball. It will be a real tactical and technical match. The midfield will be important."

“Ziyech is a top player. He hasn't enjoyed the same confidence at the club, but we need his best version. We need his qualities. I look forward to his return. The country needs him and loves him. I'm not worried about him, he'll be 100 per cent tomorrow."

THE BIGGER PICTURE: Ziyech was recalled to the national team by Regragui when he took over from Vahid Halilhodzic, one year after he ‘quit’ international football following a falling out with the Franco-Bosnian coach.

The 28-year-old had vowed never to play for Morocco as long as Halilhodzic was in charge after being dropped from the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations squad over claims of a ‘bad attitude and feigning an injury.’

Ziyech, has not enjoyed a consistent run at club level, managing just five Premier League appearances, mostly from the bench, but he showed what he is capable of with his outrageous strike from his own half as Morocco beat Georgia 3-0 in a friendly match last week.

The Atlas Lions are not just about Ziyech, however, as they also have Paris Saint-Germain full-back Achraf Hakimi, Sevilla duo of goalkeeper Yassine Bounou and striker Youssef En-Nesyri, Bayern Munich full-back Noussair Mazraoui and experienced attacking midfielder Soufiane Boufal of Angers.

WHAT’S MORE: Regragui is also hoping that his side can draw inspiration from Saudi Arabia, who stunned a Lionel Messi-led Argentina 2-1 on Tuesday. “We were very happy for Saudi Arabia. Football can belong to all people and everyone must be respected. He [Saudi Arabia coach Herve Renard] showed us the way forward."

WHAT’S NEXT? Morocco take on Croatia in Wednesday’s early kickoff, hoping for a positive outcome at the Al Bayt Stadium.