Morocco 'hungry' for final spot as they tackle reigning champions France at World Cup

Manager Regragui says team will 'fight to the end' against Mbappe and Co on Wednesday in Qatar

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Walid Regragui concedes he might be “a bit crazy”, but he says his Morocco side are not satisfied with simply making the World Cup semi-final, as they prepare to take on reigning champions France on Wednesday.

Morocco, the first African side in history to progress to this point at a global finals, face a team Regragui considers the best in the world at Al Bayt Stadium, north of Doha.

Morocco, though, have provided the World Cup with one of its great storylines, having initially finished top of a group containing Croatia and Belgium to qualify the country to the knockout stages for the first time in 36 years.

The North Africans then defeated Spain on penalties in the last 16 and Portugal in the quarter-finals 1-0 on Saturday. Morocco remain unbeaten in Qatar, conceding only once – an own goal against Canada.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday at the pre-match press conference, Regragui said: “If we are happy just to reach semi-final and some see that as enough, I don't agree. If you get to the semi-finals and you are not hungry then there is a problem.

“The best team in the tournament, Brazil, is already out. We are an ambitious team, and we are hungry, but I don't know if that will be enough.

“We want Africa to be top of the world, but we will have to be strong to progress. We are not the favourites, but we are confident. Maybe that makes me mad, or crazy? A bit of crazy can be good.

“We had perhaps the most difficult route to the semis. Every round people thought we would get knocked out. But we are still here, and we are going to fight to the end.”

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Morocco have a number of injury concerns heading into the match with France. Captain Romain Saiss was stretchered off before the hour in the victory against Portugal – he later said he would “give everything” to be fit for the semi-final – while midfield linchpin Sofyan Amrabat is one of several playing through injury. Others, including centre-back Nayef Aguerd, are considered doubts for Wednesday.

However, Regragui said: “We have a number of injuries, but we have an excellent medical staff who are working hard and coming with good news every day.

“We will have to wait to last minute – we tend to do that. No one is out, but no one is definitely in either.”

Regragui added: “Everyone might think we are tired; they said that before the last games too. You can't be tired in a World Cup semi.”

In France, Morocco go up against not only a side seeking to become the first in 60 years to retain the trophy, but one boasting tournament top-scorer Kylian Mbappe.

Regragui said he did not have a dedicated plan to stop the star forward, given France's all-round talent, but explained: “The further you get, the more difficult the games are. We are playing the world champions with world-class players and a very good coach, possibly the best in the world.

“But we will show great desire and try to pull off an upset. Why not reach the final of the World Cup? We’ve come to this competition to change mindsets within our continent.

“We aren’t satisfied with the semi-final and being the first African team to do that. We want to go further. It’s a knockout game and when you have desire, commitment and the support of the crowd, you can win it.

“We are one of the four best teams in the world now and we want to reach the final.”

Morocco are expected to have the backing of around 20,000 of their fans at Al Bayt Stadium, with Regragui referring to the semi-final as a “home match”.

“These are crazy guys,” he said. “They are the best fans in the world, and tomorrow we will introduce them to the world.

“We are a very passionate people. At least 20,000 people are going to come here to watch the match. It shows the passion we have for football. If we can show that, that is fantastic. If we can make young people around the world dream, then that is fantastic.”

Updated: December 14, 2022, 10:26 AM