Morocco head coach Walid Regragui has encouraged his team to clear their heads for their third-place clash against fellow World Cup semi-finalists Croatia on Saturday.
The Atlas Lions enjoyed an electrifying run in Qatar, defying expectations at every turn and making history as the first African nation to ever make it to the semi-final of football’s showpiece event before being halted by reigning champions France.
A bittersweet feeling for the Moroccans who had the ultimate game within reach but could not quite get there, Regragui admitted he thought they could win the tournament but encouraged his side to achieve a third-place finish.
“I’m not going to fool anyone – this is not the game we would have liked to play,” Regragui said (via Mundo Deportivo).
“I thought we could win the World Cup, and now we have to clear our heads for this game.
“We’re going to play our seventh World Cup game in a month while we’ve played six in the last 20 years. It’s a great experience for everyone, especially for the players.”
The 47-year-old then admitted his admiration for Luka Modric. He was convinced that the Real Madrid playmaker, who could be playing his final game with the Vatreni on Saturday, will want to finish the tournament in the best possible way.
“I don’t know if it will be the last game for Modric, who is one of the best players in history, but I know that he is a great competitor and that he will want to finish well,” Regragui added.
“That is why we are going to face him with great respect. What he is doing at the age of 37 is incredible. Luckily he won a Ballon d’Or – he deserves it.”
Both sides had faced off in the opening Group F game of the tournament. Croatia dominated, but there was an air of caution from both sides, who were intent on avoiding an opening-day defeat.
Saturday’s meeting is expected to be a much more open tie, with both sides keen on finishing the tournament with their heads held high.
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