Morocco captain Romain Saiss desperate to be fit for history-making World Cup semi-final

Atlas Lions defender was carried off against Portugal but hopes he will recover for France game on Wednesday

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Moroccan captain Romain Saiss says he will “give everything” to be fit to help his history-making side continue their incredible World Cup dream, but insisted he will not put his side’s chances of reaching the final at risk.

The defender, 32, was stretchered off 57 minutes into Morocco’s quarter-final victory against Portugal on Saturday, as his side triumphed 1-0 to become the first African country, and first Arab nation, to make the last four of a global finals. They face world champions France at Al Bayt Stadium on Wednesday.

Saiss, who plies his trade for Turkey’s Besiktas, has been carrying an injury during the tournament, and was not certain to play against Portugal. Morocco were already missing his central defensive partner, Nayef Aguerd, through an injury sustained in the last-16 penalty-shootout win against Spain.

Asked on Saturday if he would be fit for the semi-final, Saiss said: “I will try, I don’t know. We will see tomorrow; we will do some exams to see what kind of injury I have. But I will try my best to be on the pitch. I hope it will be OK.

“After that, if I feel it’s too difficult, I will not take any risks to put my team in trouble just to play the semi-final. But, of course, I will give everything I can to be here, like I did to be here for 55 minutes today.”

On how the whole squad has contributed to Morocco’s run, he said: “It just shows the character and the mentality of this team. So everyone is ready to play; it doesn’t matter if they play for a while, or if they come in every game.

“Everyone is focused and ready to play. That’s how you go really far in this tournament.”

Saiss, though, has been integral to a Morocco defence that has conceded only once in Qatar, and that came via a freak own goal from Aguerd, in the 2-1 group-stage victory against Canada.

Walid Regragui’s men, who became the first team from their country in 36 years to qualify for the World Cup knockouts, finished top of their group, defeating Belgium, then the world’s No 2-ranked side, and drawing with 2018 runners-up Croatia.

“We are really happy, really proud,” Saiss said. “Because it’s amazing for all the country, for all Africa, so we are really, really happy.

“We know each game is really tough because we’re facing only top teams in the World Cup, so it’s even better after when you win. Just happy for us, for our families, and our fans.”

As to whether Morocco ever dreamt of making it this far in Qatar, Saiss said: “We had a dream, of course. Dreaming is free. So we can dream. But, after, to do it is different. We put a lot of energy in each game – physically and mentally it’s hard, but at the end it’s so good.

“I know we made history. But we want to keep making history. We’ll see. It’s important now to recover well and to prepare the semi-final.”

Updated: December 11, 2022, 12:42 PM