Morocco coach Walid Regragui urges his all-conquering stars to carry on dreaming

Atlas Lions are one game away from the World Cup final

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Walid Regragui urged Morocco to keep dreaming of making even more history after his team became the first African side to reach the World Cup semi-finals.

Also the first Arab country to contest the tournament’s quarter-finals, Morocco defeated Portugal 1-0 in the last eight at Al Thumama Stadium in Al Wakrah.

Youssef En-Nesyri’s header three minutes before half-time sealed another place in the record books for Morocco, who now sit one match from a World Cup final.

Speaking immediately after the Portugal win, coach Regragui said: “What's important for future generations is we've shown that it is possible for an African team to get to the semi-finals of the World Cup. Or even the final, why not?

“Three or four matches ago, I was asked if we could win the World Cup. And I said, 'why not?' We can dream. Why shouldn't we dream? If you don't dream, you don't get anywhere. It doesn't cost you anything.

“European countries are used to winning the World Cup, so we're going to have to try and get in there - and go beyond ourselves.”

Morocco, unbeaten in all five matches in Qatar with only one goal conceded, qualified for the knockouts for the first time in 36 years by finishing top of their group.

They then saw off 2010 champions Spain on penalties in the last 16, before dispatching 2016 European champions Portugal, who introduced Cristiano Ronaldo as a second-half substitute, with a brilliant display of grit and fine play.

Morocco v Portugal player ratings

Morocco will face either reigning world champions France in the semi-final on Wednesday.

“The message I'm trying to get to the players is to be confident, go out there and give everything, and have no regrets. And they believed me,” Regragui said. “Of course, it's great to come to the World Cup, to play those three group stage games. We have elite players, and we have a team that can win games at the World Cup.

“Sometimes you exaggerate things, but they actually believed it and they've now shown that they are capable of performing at this level.”

Once more, Morocco had goalkeeper Yassine Bounou to thank for a keeping their dream alive. The Sevilla stopper, known more commonly as Bono, made a number of saves on Saturday, repelling Joao Felix on more than one occasion, and Ronaldo right at the death.

Voted man of the match for a third time this tournament, Bono said: “As our coach said, we're here to change the mentality. This feeling of inferiority, we need to get rid of it. The generation coming after us will now know that Moroccan players can create miracles.”

Updated: December 10, 2022, 9:10 PM