The best moment of the Cup was the return and the reception in Rabat

Returning to the historic journey of the Moroccan national team during the Qatar 2022 World Cup, Walid Regragui, the coach of the Atlas Lions, reveals behind the scenes of the incredible feat that changed his world.

In an interview with the French newspaper l’Equipe, Walid Regragui, 47, looks back on the most important stages that have marked the adventure of the Atlas Lions, from the selection process and tactical choices, to the welcoming the team as heroes in Rabat.

For fifteen days, we dissected all the matches with my staff to define a style. I decide on a 4-1-4-1, a system that I played in WAC and which suits us. Then I have to tell the players what I expect of them and get it into their heads. I multiplied the video calls and I also traveled a lot, spoke to 40-45 players. The first ones I saw were Captain Romain Saïss, Achraf Hakimi and Yassine Bounou to find out how they saw things“, revealed the coach.

For Walid Regragui, the hardest selection step was to convince Chelsea attacking midfielder Hakim Ziyech, ” because he was angry about the situation. He wasn’t answering, so I went through a mutual friend“. The coach had to contact him and talk to him by video first in order to lay the foundations for the “World Cup” project. ” The priority was for us to be unanimous, players like me, on his return. I did not see Morocco in Qatar without its best elements. We couldn’t afford it if we wanted to win“, he confided to the team.

Asked about the language he used to communicate with the national team as the players are multilingual, Regragui pointed out that he himself spoke Spanish, French and English, however ” all the meetings, the talks were in Arabic, it’s our identity, and we put a person who speaks another language next to those who don’t understand. Romain Saïss translated, for example, for English speakers. And will soon add a generation from Italy“.

As for the goals set and his slogan “Niya”, the coach indicated that “It was first to pass the first round”, noting that he would never have accepted the challenge without having an ambition to win. ” I was convinced of it and it was not the Coué method. When you see the typical team, Hakimi at PSG, Ziyech at Chelsea, Bounou at Sevilla, Mazraoui at Bayern, Aguerd at West Ham, Saïss at Wolverhampton before going to Besiktas, Amrabat at Fiorentina… I told them: We has a team that can beat anyone“, clarified Regragui who aimed to convince them of this.

Moreover, ” the idea was to see this match as a mini-tournament. There were two periods during this competition so, in the worst case, it was not necessary to lose it, to stay alive. Then with Cup matches, everything was possible. The hardest part for us was the group stage. The draw against Croatia (0-0) reassured us and I was convinced afterwards that we would be hard to beat. And it is Belgium (2-0) that launches us. There, we have certainties. And against Canada (2-1), we want to finish first, we even use Hakimi, who nevertheless has a small elongation“, continues the trainer.

To do this, “I told them that they had to make history. Two group stage wins in one week was the equivalent of all Morocco wins in five appearances,” points out Regragui.

On the other hand, the best moment of this adventure, rather emotional for the young coach, was the return to Rabat, ” the reception of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, the people at the airport. You realize the emotions that you have procured. We were locked up for five weeks and even if we saw the social networks, you have to live it to understand… These mothers, these grandmothers, these little girls, these little boys… There, you understand that you even touched people far from football, that you made a people proud“.

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