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Bullish Regragui predicting great things for Morocco

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 1 Dec 2022

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Morocco coach Walid Regragui believes his team are capable of “great things” after becoming the first African team in 24 years to top a World Cup group.

The Atlas Lions finished first in Group F after beating Canada 2-1 at Al Thumama Stadium while the other pool game, between Croatia and Belgium, ended goalless.

First-half goals from Hakim Ziyech and Youssef En-Nesyri proved enough with Nayef Aguerd’s own goal – the first of the tournament – nothing more than a consolation for a Canada side who return home without a point.

Regragui said: “We set ourselves an objective of giving everything we’ve got and trying to get past the group stage. We’ve done that, so why not aim for the sky?

“We’re not going to stop here, we are a very difficult team to beat, so why not dream of lifting the trophy?

“Let’s not get carried away but, if we are fighting fit, we know we are capable of great things.”

After a dominant first-half performance, Morocco went into their shells in the second but determination and a little luck – Canada substitute Atiba Hutchinson planting a header off the underside of the bar – saw them through.

Regragui added: “It wasn’t easy and when you have this kind of opportunity to make history you think about it.

“I thought the first half display was the best we have had in a long time. It was a shame that we allowed that own goal as it shook us. In the second half, there was pressure on us but I loved it.”

Regragui was only appointed at the end of August and Paris Saint-Germain full-back Achraf Hakimi had nothing but praise for the 47-year-old.

He said: “The coach has done an amazing job. He hasn’t had much time but he’s formed an amazing group. We trust in him.”

For Canada, Thursday represented the end of a remarkable journey that saw them top the final round of CONCACAF qualifying ahead of Mexico and the United States to reach their first World Cup in 36 years.

English coach John Herdman said: “It’s the first time in a long time that we’ve got here and we’d like to have been here longer.

“We’ve enjoyed the ride, our players have turned up to compete, we’ve been fearless and we’ve had something to celebrate in every game. We’re a young team and we’re developing.

“As a football country we can be proud of the performance and the external world will be talking positively about Canada. We were front-footed and fearless.

“We raised the bar by finishing top of the CONCACAF group and we were two inches away tonight from getting our first point. We had the penalty against Belgium and battled all the way through against Croatia.

“The stats will tell you we weren’t far away. We’ll ask the hard questions as we head towards 2026 but this is not Canada walking away with our heads down, we can keep our heads up.”

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