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Morocco: Walid Regragui speaks of  AFCON failure and promises change

Walid Regragui
Morocco: Walid Regragui speaks of  AFCON failure and promises change

AFCON 2023 was full of surprises.Among them, Morocco's elimination in the first round. A fiasco from which Walid Regragui still hasn't recovered. To put it behind him, he intends to make some changes...

Morocco, the overwhelming favorite for the AFCON 2023, were eliminated in the Round of 16 by South Africa (0-2). A debacle that could have cost Walid Regragui his place. But the coach, who had promised to resign if he failed to reach the semi-finals, was finally confirmed by the Royal Moroccan Football Federation. Since the debacle in Côte d'Ivoire, the coach has remained silent. This silence has now been broken. In an interview with the Moroccan sports channel Arryadia, he spoke of the setback. After apologizing, he went on to explain the reasons for the early elimination. "The mental side, but also the climate. We didn't adapt well to the atmosphere and the humidity. We started our preparations more than ten days before the start of the competition in San Pedro. We're benefiting from the best possible conditions. The weather conditions were very difficult, but we shouldn't use them as an argument for our elimination," he begins.


Walid Regragui goes on to talk about his men's lack of efficiency. "In soccer, when you win, it means you've made the right choices, even if you're not very good. And when you lose, people say you made a mistake, but sometimes you still made the right choice.(...) Some people say we could have been more attacking or taken more initiative with our pressing, but the weather made that impossible. I didn't see any of the teams pressing the whole game; everyone was managing their games during this AFCON. (...) The style of play wasn't the same as at the World Cup. The stats show that we dominated every game, and Morocco were the team with the most expected goals in the whole competition. But maybe this style doesn't suit us.

Change to come
"Arsène Wenger warned me"...

Nevertheless, it should be pointed out that this is not Morocco's first AFCON failure.Always cited as one of the favourites, the Atlas Lions have not progressed beyond the quarter-finals since the 2004 final. What's more, they have been eliminated in the first round on several occasions (2006, 2008, 2012, 2013). Their one and only triumph dates back to 1976. A record that pales in comparison with the continent's other big guns."We haven't won since 1976. Nigeria have played 15 semi-finals because they know what they're doing. Our problem goes deeper than that. We've talked to Fouzi Lekjaa about setting up a special unit to find the reasons. This will be done with former players, doctors and professionals," admits Walid Regragui.

The coach also knows that his World Cup 2022 semi-final will no longer be a totem of immunity for long."Arsène Wenger warned me in Doha that if I didn't win the African Cup of Nations, things would quickly become difficult for me. He was right, but I take this pressure as extra motivation. We're lucky to have a great president with whom we've had several constructive discussions. We didn't talk much about the past, concentrating instead on the future and AFCON 2025," he says.

AFCON and World Cup on the horizon

With the AFCON 2023 chapter closed, other events are fast approaching for Morocco. First, in 2025, with the competition on home soil. Then in 2026, the World Cup, co-hosted with Spain and Portugal. Walid Regragui doesn't want to be surprised again. So he's planning changes at every level. "I'll be looking to bring as many top-level players as possible into the team. We'll have to review the squad. We're entering a new cycle, that of the 2026 World Cup. There are going to be some changes in the staff and the players! So there's going to be some upheaval.

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