DOHA, December 15
Morocco’s exciting run to a first-ever World Cup semifinal will inject new energy in African football and hold out hope for the continent’s teams when they return in larger numbers in four years’ time.
African football had been in a crisis of confidence after the last World Cup in Russia, when none of the five teams made it out of the group phase, but that has now all changed with the performance of Walid Regragui’s team in Qatar.
Beating Belgium, Canada, Portugal and Spain saw Morocco become the first African and Arab country in the last-four stage of the tournament and a reference point now for others to try and emulate. It was an impressive achievement, particularly as they carried injuries, had several half-fit players in their squad and looked fatigued in most matches, yet were able to display a resolute determination and sense of purpose.
A lot of this came because of the fevered support they enjoyed. In each of their matches, they had large contingent of fans, who raised the decibel level considerably and created an extra energy for the team.
But young coach Regragui, appointed only three months earlier, was also able to create a team spirit despite having the most heterogeneous squad at the tournament.
Morocco draw their players mainly from the many communities dotted around Europe, with many third generation players knowing little Arabic, Berber or French, and therefore finding it difficult to communicate with their teammates. “I think we’ve given a good image of Morocco and a good image of African football,” said Regragui. — Reuters
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