Morocco coach Walid Regragui said his team’s 2-0 semifinal loss to France at the World Cup doesn’t take away from everything they did to get there and showed they are not far from the top levels of world football.
The African side, which won their group then beat Spain and Portugal in the knockout rounds to set up the semi against the defending champions, had an injury crisis ahead of Wednesday’s decisive match, but Regragui said there was no room for excuses.
“We gave the maximum, that’s the most important,” Regragui said. “We had some injuries, we lost [Nayef] Aguerd in the warm-up, [Romain] Saiss, [Noussair] Mazraoui [during the game], but there are no excuses.
“We paid for the slightest mistake. We didn’t get into the game well, we had too much technical waste in the first half, and the second goal kills us, but that doesn’t take away everything we did before.”
Theo Hernandez opened the scoring inside of five minutes for France, but Regragui’s rearranged team battled back strongly to put the holders under pressure until substitute Randal Kolo Muani’s 79th minute goal ended the contest.
Regragui said he changed his tactics defensively to try to deal with the speed of France’s wingers, and it largely paid off until Kylian Mbappe delivered a brilliant late run to set up the winner.
“At a World Cup, this was perhaps one step too far,” the Morocco coach added. “Not in terms of quality or tactics, but physically we came up short tonight. We have too many players who were at 60 percent and they have been for a few games now.
“Today we had a lot of possession and they punished us when we had the ball. Congratulations to France, we are going to support them now.”
Morocco now face Croatia in the third-place playoff on Saturday, while France seek to repeat as World Cup champions as they take on Argentina in Sunday’s final.
“It will be difficult on the mental level,” Regragui said. “I will give opportunities to those who did not participate, and we will try to clinch the third place.
“The important thing is that we presented a good look to our team, and that soccer in Morocco is not far from the top levels.”
Information from Reuters was used in this story.