Saturday, January 28, 2023

The secret of Morocco lies in maternal love

DOHA ( Associated Press) — In his four months as Morocco’s coach, Walid Regargui made a series of decisions that explain why he became the first team from the African continent to reach a World Cup semi-final and earned the admiration of the entire Arab world. There are subjects. World.

First he made sure to recover the contributions of Hakeem Zeych, one of the main stars of the Atlas Lions. The attacking midfielder for English Chelsea was at odds with Vahid Halilhodzic, Regargui’s predecessor on the Moroccan bench.

They also decided to adopt a 4-1-4-1 scheme which has been strictly followed in every match of the tournament in Qatar. Moroccans retreat smartly and then squeeze the opponent to force an error and launch quick counterattacks. They have conceded barely one goal in five matches and it was an own goal.

Another factor? Mothers of players.

Beyond any strategy, Regargui understood the concept of having a good atmosphere within the team, a sense of identity. The 47-year-old coach, with the backing of the Moroccan federation, decided that his players would invite their mothers for a concentration at a hotel amid the skyscrapers of West Bay, the financial district of the capital Doha. Covering all expenses. No other team stays with their mother in this World Cup.

After each historic achievement of the team in this World Cup, the ceremony features an ancestor as a hero, a very influential figure in Arab culture.

“We wanted to show the world the affinity we have with our players’ families. It’s part of our culture, where we’re from,” he said.

After converting the decisive penalty to eliminate Spain in the round of 16, winger Achraf Hakimi – the team’s other legend – ran to kiss and hug his mother, who was in the front row of seats at the Education City stadium.

The same scene was repeated at Al Thumama on Saturday night after Morocco beat Portugal 1-0. Moroccan midfielder Sofiane Boufal danced on the pitch with his mother.

“My mother is the most important thing,” Boufal said after the win against Spain. “The emotions generated by football drive you crazy. The most important thing is to have the support of your family.”

Regargui explained that bringing the families to the World Cup was part of a strategy to get the most out of the team.

“It was something we discussed with the staff and details like taking family members were considered to create a good atmosphere and it is something that has helped us go far in this tournament,” he added. Is.”

The North African team had won only two of its last 16 matches in five World Cups prior to Qatar. Their best result was a round of 16 in Mexico 1986.

They were not recognized as favorites for survival in the first round group in which they faced Croatia and Belgium, the semi-finals of the previous World Cup. The sudden change of coach a few weeks after his debut did not invite optimism.

But here they are preparing to face defending champions France – the country where Regargui was born – in the semi-finals.

Not surprising, because Morocco has not brought together so many players who play for famous European clubs.

Their full-backs, Hakimi and Noussair Mazrouei, play for Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich. Goalkeeper Yassin Bounou and striker Youssef An-Nesri – the author of the header on goal in the win against Portugal – are part of Sevilla in Spain. There are also central defenders Nayef Aguirde (West Ham) and Romain Sass (Besiktas) and midfielder Sofian Amrabat (Fiorentina).

From the outset Regaragui gave a slogan that he was not going to travel to the World Cup with: “No one goes with the mentality of only playing three games.”

Regaragui was a defender for the national team and most recently led Wydad Casablanca to the African Champions League title. No one had been in charge of the Moroccan national team since 1994, during which time there was a carousel of coaches from France, Portugal, Belgium and the Bosnian Halilhojić.

With a bunch of players who agree perfectly with their tactical plan, Morocco are a very uncomfortable team to face. The only goal conceded was against Canada, attributed to Agurd, meaning that Croatia, Belgium, Spain and Portugal were unable to score against them.

They enter the final week of the tournament with an average of less than three shots on goal and around 30% possession. Against Spain, Morocco completed just 343 passes, while its opponent added 1,041.

“I think we are the Rocky Balboa of this World Cup. I think the whole world is with Morocco,” said Regargui. “We are showing the world that great things can be achieved even if you don’t have that much talent, quality or money. But if you work hard and show that desire, that passion and that conviction, you Can be successful. It is not a miracle.”

Nation World News Desk
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