Morocco 'capable of great things' after World Cup advance, says Regragui

North Africans punched their ticket to the last 16 thanks to a 2-1 win over Canada to finish top of Group F ahead of 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia

Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Coach Walid Regragui said Morocco are "capable of great things" after reaching the World Cup knockout rounds for the first time in 36 years on Thursday.

The North Africans punched their ticket to the last 16 thanks to a 2-1 win over Canada to finish top of Group F ahead of 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia.

Morocco play Spain for a place in the quarter-finals on Monday while Croatia face Japan. It is only the second time Morocco have reached the knockout rounds having previously done so in 1986.

Regragui said his team's performance in the group – which also included a win over Belgium and a draw against Croatia – was down to a determination to "change the mindset" of Morocco's national team.

Now France-born former Morocco international Regragui says the team is dreaming of going further than the last 16 – even winning the tournament.

"We set ourselves an objective – we said we wanted to give everything we've got and get out of the group stages. We can tick that box now," Regragui said.

"So why not aim for the sky? We needed to change and we needed to change our mentality. We're not going to stop here. We're going to respect every opponent. But we are going to be very difficult opponents. So why not dream about lifting that trophy?

"We know that African teams need to set themselves objectives. We drew with Croatia. We beat Belgium. We beat Canada. We're realistic, but we know what we're worth. We'll take it one game at a time ... But if we're 100 percent and fighting fit we're capable of great things."

Regragui, who only took over as Morocco coach in August after the dismissal of predecessor Vahid Halilhodzic, said he had been determined to model Morocco's mental approach on European and South American teams at the World Cup.

"Right from the beginning I have been talking about changing our mindset," Regragui said. "We didn't come here just to play and say 'We almost qualified [for the last 16]'.

"We want to play our own game, but we also need to get the results and do as all European or South American teams do. We need to emulate them. I don't see any teams here that have just come to play. They come with a plan.

"So there is the mentality change. We didn't want to fall prey to this negativity. The idea is to stay strong. We need to duplicate the play of European teams, with our own values. That's what I tried to do today."

Morocco's Sofyan Amrabat, left, and Canada's Alphonso Davies, right, challenge for the ball. AP Photo

Back at the World Cup for the first time in 36 years, Canada came to Qatar with high expectations and a bit of swagger but stumbled out of the tournament on Thursday after a third straight loss and head home licking their wounds.

Coach John Herdman praised his men for their fearlessness and attacking style but after Thursday's defeat to Morocco the end result was the same as in Canada's only other World Cup appearance in 1986 – three losses.

"I think there's been some big moments," said Herdman. "As a football country we can definitely be proud of the performances.

"We always said the world level is the next level and I don't think we were far off tonight ... from getting our first result.

"I think for all of us we need to take a deep breath and enjoy what we have experienced here and ask the hard questions because that is part of growth as we move through to 2026.

"This isn't Canada walking away with our heads down, we can keep our heads up."

Updated: December 02, 2022, 5:43 AM