Morocco showed they can compete with international football’s elite teams after finishing fourth at the World Cup, according to head coach Walid Regragui.
Goals from Josko Gvardiol and Mislav Orsic gave Croatia a 2-1 victory in Saturday’s third-place play-off, as Morocco’s historic World Cup came to a conclusion.
They became the first African nation to reach the semi-finals of international football’s top tournament, overcoming giants such as Spain and Portugal before finally succumbing to France in the final four.
Despite the losing end to Morocco’s campaign, Regragui believes the Atlas Lions exhibited their right to be considered one of the top footballing nations in the world.
“Tomorrow morning we will take stock, and realise we all made a fantastic achievement here,” Regragui told reporters at his post-match news conference.
“We played Croatia twice, one of the top three teams in the world. We played against Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium and Canada, that’s wonderful.
“We have an objective of winning the World Cup one day. Morocco showed we can go toe to toe with these teams. We are now one of the top four teams in the world.”
Captured the hearts of us all, we’ll be seeing you soon
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup)
Asked if he would change anything about Morocco’s tournament, Regragui replied: “Honestly I would say nothing.
“We had 0.01 per cent chance of winning the tournament at the outset. We managed to get to the last four.
“We played some of the powerhouses of football. If you told me we’d get this far, number four in the world, I’d have accepted that straight away.
“We deserve respect. They fought until the end, showed hard graft. That’s football, some nations are stronger than us. France were, Croatia were tonight, but only slightly stronger.
“For 2026, if I’m still in charge, I’ll have more experience and maybe things will change, and in 2026 we will realise the achievement we’ve made in 2022.”
Croatia 2-1 Morocco
Second and third-place finishes in consecutive World Cups for a country the size of Croatia is no mean feat.
Morocco leave knowing they’ve gone further than any African nation in World Cup history.
— Opta Analyst (@OptaAnalyst)
Morocco’s final match in Qatar saw a number of controversial officiating decisions, with the final whistle met by intense protests from Regragui’s players towards the referee.
Achraf Hakimi, Morocco’s star right-back, was reportedly involved in a row with FIFA president Gianni Infantino in the tunnel after the match.
It comes after the Royal Morocco football Federation lodged a complaint to FIFA over referee Cesar Ramos’ performance during their semi-final defeat to France.
However, Regragui was keen not to focus too much on the referee’s display, while he defended his players’ behaviour after the game.
“When you lose you always get disappointed, upset,” Regragui stated. “My players are great competitors, I don’t think there was a lack of respect.
“We sometimes overreact at the end of games, it happens. We just weren’t at the level we’ve set.
“We focus on what we were lacking. We can’t hide behind the refereeing, that’s not the Moroccan way. We let the association deal with any official issues.”