We have all Africa and Arabia behind us - Regragui

1 month ago 3120
Nayef AguerdNayef Aguerd is an injury doubt after going off against Spain

Morocco coach Walid Regragui says his side feel the support of all African and Arabic people as they aim to make World Cup history.

Morocco could be the first African nation to reach the semi-finals, if they beat Portugal on Saturday.

They are also the only majority Islamic nation left in Qatar, the first Arabian country to host the tournament.

"We have Africa behind us and Arabic people," said Regragui.

"That's important, but we are playing first for Morocco."

Reaching the quarter-finals marks a best-ever performance at the World Cup for Morocco. The country had only once previously progressed to the knockout stages, on their debut in 1986.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference on Friday, Regragui said his team were well aware of the impact of their success, with the nation's official airline laying on seven additional flights from Morocco to Qatar in order for more fans to attend the biggest football match in the country's history.

"I'm proud of my country and my team," added Regragui. "You feel the positive vibe and everyone is acting like we are all part of the same family.

"People are identifying with us and we are uniting Moroccan people. That is more important than money and titles, but we are here to win games and go as far as we can in this tournament."

Regragui said he would be quite happy not to see Cristiano Ronaldo's name on the teamsheet despite Portugal's impressive 6-1 win over Switzerland in the round of 16 without him.

Ronaldo was benched with his replacement, Goncalo Ramos, scoring a stunning hat-trick.

Regragui said: "We have respect for Portugal, they have great strikers. But they know we will be a challenge.

"We are used to playing elite teams. We have a plan and we will try to pull off a surprise, but we need to focus on us and getting better as the match goes on."

Morocco sweating on Aguerd - team news

Portugal coach Fernando Santos said he had a "frank conversation" with Ronaldo to explain why he was dropped for his side's last match, but insisted the forward did not threaten to leave the World Cup and is available on Saturday.

Regragui has not yet ruled out West Ham defender Nayef Aguerd for Morocco, who went off injured before they defeated Spain via penalty shoot-out in the round of 16.

Talking about the physical state of his players, Regragui added: "They are tired and we have injures, but we aren't going to complain.

"You need everyone if you are going to go far. No matter who plays, we will give our best and not make excuses."

'I really want Morocco to go though'

Chris Sutton's predictions

Morocco are going to find this game a lot harder than stopping Belgium or Spain, but they are super-organised defensively - they have only conceded one goal at this World Cup - and extremely aggressive on the break.

It worries me that they might be without Aguerd, who came off injured against Spain and is one of their key defenders.

But I really want Morocco to go though - their fans are amazing and it would be a sensational story for them to reach the semi-finals.

My head is telling me Portugal, because they are bubbling with confidence now, but I am a bit of an old romantic and I am going to follow my heart here.

Sutton's prediction: 1-0

Unstoppable Portugal meet immovable Morocco

  • This will be the third meeting between Morocco and Portugal, with the previous two both coming at the World Cup. Morocco won the first 3-1 in a group stage clash in 1986, before Portugal won 1-0 in the 2018 tournament where they also shared a group.
  • Against Switzerland last time out, Portugal's Goncalo Ramos became the first player to score a hat-trick on his first World Cup start since Miroslav Klose in 2002.
  • Morocco have kept three cleansheets in four games at the 2022 World Cup, the most by an African side in a single edition of the tournament.
  • Portugal's 12 goals have been netted by eight different players, which is the most different scorers they have had in a World Cup.

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