12/16/22, 1:37 PM
Morocco may not have reached the World Cup final, but the players and fans can be proud that they will leave Qatar having played seven games, a record for any African country, according to coach Walid Regragui on Friday.
Morocco's World Cup dream ended in the semi-finals when they were defeated by reigning champions France, but they can still leave Qatar on a high note when they face Croatia in the third-place playoff on Saturday.
Regragui stated that he would not make too many changes to the squad because it would upset the team balance, but admitted that it was a difficult and complicated game for two teams who had been asked to play after losing their semi-final matches.
"I understand it's important to finish third rather than fourth, but my takeaway is we didn't reach the final... We wanted to play the final on Sunday, not play tomorrow," Regragui said.
"But I told my players this is our seventh World Cup game. If you told any Morocco fan we would be playing our seventh game on December 17, they would be proud.
"Morocco played six World Cup games in 20-odd years and now we've played six games in a month - this is priceless. It's as if we played two World Cups or even more, that's beautiful from an experience point of view."
Croatia, according to Regragui, were a formidable team even if they were not expected to repeat their 2018 finish as runners-up in Russia. Argentina's Lionel Messi crushed their hopes in the semi-finals.
"We knew Croatia were going to be one of the best teams in the competition. After the first game (where Morocco and Croatia drew 0-0 in the group stage) we knew the performance was very good," Regragui said.
"A lot of people said Croatia were approaching the end of their cycle and would have the rug swept out from under their feet. Croatia got stick for not beating 'underdogs' Morocco but both teams reached the semi-final.
"There was a lot of hesitation for the first game... Both teams will want to win it (on Saturday) and it will be a great game."
The game could be Croatian midfielder Luka Modric's last with the national team and Regragui praised the Real Madrid man who is still going strong at 37.
"I don't know if it's Modric's last game, he's a competitive warrior and will want to finish his World Cup in style. When he wants to finish on a great note, we should be wary," Regragui said.
"Hats off to Modric. What he's doing at 37 is monumental. He was a Ballon d'Or winner and I completely understand why."
126asia, sports news