Morocco the Rocky Balboa of the World Cup – Regragui

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Walid Regragui compared Morocco to Rocky Balboa after his side overcame Portugal to make World Cup history.

Morocco became the first African team to reach the World Cup semi-finals with a 1-0 victory at Al Thumama Stadium on Saturday.

Youssef En-Nesyri’s header put them ahead in the 42nd minute and the Atlas Lions holding firm amid late pressure.

Morocco have conceded only once – an own-goal – in their five matches in Qatar, despite having played Belgium, Spain, Portugal and fellow semi-finalists Croatia.

Regragui believes his team sent a “message to the world”, which is now fully behind Morocco’s story – one the coach likened to Hollywood’s underdog boxer.

“We are becoming the team everyone loves at this World Cup because we are showing if you work hard enough, show that passion and belief, you can achieve,” he said.

“It’s no miracle. Many will say it’s a miracle, especially in Europe, but we’ve played Croatia, Belgium, Spain, Portugal without letting in a goal.

“That’s not a miracle, it’s the result of hard work. We’ve made our people happy and proud, the continent happy and proud, so many people around the world happy.

“When you watch Rocky, you support him because of his heart and commitment. We are the Rocky of this World Cup.

“When you are a small team, you need this belief. I told the players you don’t go to a World Cup to play for three games. Anyone who just came to play three games cannot come with me.

football for this is the best sport in the world – you can believe, you can do it. It’s a message to the world and I think the world is now with Morocco.”

Morocco have not had it easy. As well as facing some of the world’s best sides, they have had to contend with injuries to key players – Noussair Mazraoui and Nayef Aguerd were absent on Saturday, while captain Romain Saiss went off injured early in the second half.

But Regragui trusts his squad, as he reiterated Morocco’s dream is to go all the way in Qatar.

“It’s great to come to the World Cup to play the group stage matches – the fans would be happy, but before the first round everyone thought we would get knocked out,” he said.

“But we have elite players. We have a team that can win games at the World Cup. We needed to be confident, go out and have no regrets. The players believed me.

“What’s important for future generations is we’ve shown it is possible for an African team to get to the semi-finals, and why not even a final? Why not?

“We should dream, dream of winning a World Cup. If you don’t dream you can’t get anywhere, it costs nothing to have dreams.

“Anyone playing us will be afraid of us, they’ll have to be at the top of their game. That’s the message I’ll send to them.”

Morocco will go up against the winner of France versus England in the semi-finals.



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