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African teams got eliminated playing spectacularly at World Cups - Morocco coach Regragui

11:51 PM SGT 26/11/22
Morocco's head coach Walid Regragui.
Morocco coach Walid Regragui has defended African teams following criticism over their defensive display at the World Cup.
  • Regragui sees nothing wrong with African team displays
  • Morocco coach feels focus should be on reaching the knockout round
  • Atlas Lions face Belgium in their second group match on Sunday

WHAT HAPPENED? Only Ghana scored in the first round of matches after Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco and Cameroon all failed to do so. The Teranga Lions were on target in their second game when they beat Qatar 3-1 on Friday, but Regragui sees nothing wrong with their approach.

The Atlas Lions coach feels African teams have learnt their lessons after playing expansively in previous World Cup tournaments and all that matters now is qualifying from the group.

WHAT DID HE SAY? “As staff, we want to change African mentalities a bit,” Regragui said in his pre-match conference ahead of Morocco’s match with Belgium on Sunday.

“Before, as Africans, we played spectacular matches in the World Cup, but we were eliminated in the first round. Today, I think that Tunisia [who lost 1-0 on Saturday], us and even Senegal yesterday [Friday] proved that you can lose the first match but stay in the race.”

“The goal is to go to the second round. I know some people will be mad at me because they want a show. But it is Saudi Arabia who have three points and not Argentina. We want to qualify, no matter how.”

“The most important thing is to make our country proud. Already, we have done better than in 2018 by snatching a point. We will try to take as many points as possible to qualify.”

“Tomorrow [Sunday], we will be solid, we will try to pose problems and make Africa proud, since we represent it. The most important thing today is that Africa passes the group. We have to prove that we are capable of passing. It requires a European state of mind. If we pass the group, I think we will be very dangerous.”

THE BIGGER PICTURE: African teams have scored five goals in Qatar so far, following Ghana’s 3-2 loss to Portugal in their group opener and Senegal’s 3-1 win against Qatar on matchday two. Morocco have an opportunity to change that when they take on 2018 semi-finalists Belgium on Sunday, having held Croatia to a goalless draw in their opening match.

The Atlas Lions are chasing only their third World Cup win in what is their sixth appearance at the tournament, having won in the 1986 and 1998 editions. Still, they have injury concerns to key players Noussair Mazraoui, Achraf Hakimi and captain Romain Saiss who will have to be assessed before the match.

WHAT’S MORE? Regragui is hoping that his side can spring a surprise even though they are considered underdogs. “The favourite is Belgium. They have a fantastic coach, world-class players, they have the experience, you have to accept that. But we want to create a surprise. It will be a very difficult game for both teams."

WHAT’S NEXT? Morocco will be hoping for a positive result against the Belgians in Sunday’s second match.