Walid Regragui lauded Morocco for making their country and Africa proud but conceded the “small details” helped “real champions” France through to the World Cup final.
Africa’s first semi-finalists in FIFA’s top tournament largely held their own against Didier Deschamps’ defending champions, though fell to a 2-0 defeat at Al Bayt Stadium.
Theo Hernandez and Randal Kolo Muani proved the difference as France set up a final against Lionel Messi’s Argentina on Sunday.
Regragui reflected on a historic campaign for not only Morocco but the entire continent after defeating Belgium, Spain and Portugal en route to falling narrowly short in the last four.
“We realised we made a great achievement already, we know that the media supported us and on the TV, we saw how proud everyone was,” he said at his post-match press conference.
“We are disappointed, we wanted to keep the Moroccan people’s dream alive. We are going to have to digest this defeat. We are pleased with what we have achieved, but we felt we could have gone even further.
“The small details help real champions win. We saw this against France, they had a lot of substitutes to make a difference.
“I told the players I am proud of them, the whole of Morocco is proud of them and so is the world. We worked hard; played honest football and that is what we wanted to do.
“We gave a good image of Morocco and Africa, representing our country and our continent. We went as far as we could in the competition and that is great, but we are going to have to do even better in the future.
“We have to do that regularly if we want to be on the footballing map. We may not be as good as Spain, Brazil or England, but I want to qualify for every competition.
“Then, it will become normal for Morocco to be a presence. We have shown Africans we are capable of going toe-to-toe with the best.”
An unforgettable run. Thank you for the memories, Morocco
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup)
Nayef Aguerd, Roman Saiss and Noussair Mazraoui were all injury doubts heading into the semi-final clash, but were initially named in Morocco’s starting XI.
Aguerd did not appear, Saiss bowed out before half-time and Mazraoui was replaced at the break, with Regragui conceding injuries took their toll on the Atlas Lions.
“At a World Cup, this was one step too far – not for the quality or tactics, but physically we came up short,” he added.
“We had too many players who were at 60-70 per cent, but nevertheless got through to the semi-finals. My players gave a very good image of our team, and we showcased our quality.
“We wanted to rewrite the history books, but you can’t win the World Cup through miracles, you need hard work and that is what we are going to continue to do.”
As for the third-place play-off against Croatia on Saturday, Regragui vowed Morocco will fight once more, though he may offer chances to those who have not featured as often in Qatar.
“It will be a challenge mentally. We are on our last legs, we have a lot of players injured, but we want to win the game,” the head coach continued.
“But I also want to allow squad players a chance to show what they can do. Those players have made a great contribution, but haven’t had many minutes.
“After a defeat like this, it is always difficult to plan for the future. We will have some time to recover, and then we are going to try and make our country proud and win that third place.”