FIFA World Cup 2022: Regragui forms Morocco into “family”

Moroccans live all over the world. And what has been a field of conflict for the national team for years, Regragui has turned into a success factor at this tournament. He formed a team that was hard to beat from many different influences and experiences: from players who were born in Morocco – and those who hail from Madrid or Leiterdorp in South Holland. From stars who play for big clubs like Bayern Munich or Paris Saint-Germain – and from their adjutants from Wydad Casablanca.

“Before this tournament, we always had big problems between the players who were born in Morocco and the players who grew up abroad. You journalists have always asked: why do you let them play or them?” said Regragui. “Now we have shown that every Moroccan is a Moroccan. We all belong together. I have an exceptional group of players. We made a family out of a team.”

Morocco eliminates Spain in penalty shootout

After 120 goalless minutes, the Spaniards failed on penalties against the Moroccans: With 3-0 against the former world champion, the Moroccans can look forward to the quarter-finals against the Portuguese.

The “Lions of Atlas” (“Lions de l’Atlas”) already left runners-up Croatia and World Cup third-placed Belgium behind in the group stage and have now gone more than 120 minutes without conceding a goal against Spain. “I’m the happiest person in the world,” said Regragui after winning the 3-0 penalty shootout against Spain.

Bounou drives Spaniards to despair

An attempt by the Spaniards went to the post, and Bounou reacted brilliantly to two more by Carlos Soler and Sergio Busquets. The 31-year-old was then lying crying on the lawn and was then thrown into the air by his colleagues as a group. The fact that he works for Sevilla FC at club level made his success even more special. The goalie, whose stage name is Bono, was born in Canada and grew up in Morocco. Ten years ago, Atletico Madrid brought him for the second team. The 1.90 meter man moved to Seville in 2019 via Real Zaragoza and Girona, where he is a regular goalie.

“We are very happy. We have to stay focused now. But in order to realize what we have just achieved here, we will still need a lot, a lot of time,” emphasized Bounou. It was also an emotional evening for Hakimi, who converted the last penalty in Panenka style. The 24-year-old was born in Madrid and played for Real from the age of eight until he was 20. Capping up for Spain and leaving Morocco was never an issue for him. “I always wanted to play for Morocco,” emphasized the PSG full-back once again.

Coach as part of the team structure

Morocco will now make their debut in a World Cup quarterfinals against Portugal on Saturday (4:00 p.m.). Previously only Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010) had reached this stage of the tournament from Africa. Regragui is the first African coach to feature in the last eight. And the success came even though the French-Moroccan dual citizen had only succeeded the fired Vahid Halilhodzic two and a half months before the first World Cup game.

“He’s doing a fantastic job, even though he didn’t have much time for it,” Hakimi said of his coach. He was born in a Paris suburb. “But nobody can take my Moroccan heart from me,” stressed Regragui. During the warm-up, he likes to join in the kick every now and then or hold the camera when his players record a video message. He’s right in the middle of it and is well received. The fact that Ragragui invited the players’ families to the World Cup camp in Qatar also proved to be a smart move.

Tactical discipline as the key to success

In addition to the individual class of individual players such as Hakimi and the recovered Chelsea ace Hakim Ziyech, tactical discipline stands out. Add to that the huge fan support – up to 30,000 per game in Qatar. The success caused great enthusiasm at home. Thousands flocked to the streets of the North African country to celebrate after the game. Cars drove through the streets everywhere, honking their horns. Morocco’s King Mohammed VI. slipped on a jersey and let himself be driven through the celebrating crowds in Rabat.

The news site Ana al-Chabar spoke of an “unprecedented performance at the expense of the Spaniards”. This leaves everyone in Morocco’s camp wanting more. “Our ambition now is to reach the semi-finals. We want to achieve the maximum,” said midfielder Abdelhamid Sabiri.


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