How Regragui has orchestrated Morocco's soccer fairy story

DOHA, Qatar — Fatima Regragui is in her late 60s. When her son Walid was an expert participant — he had spells inside the French leagues with teams comparable to Toulouse and Ajaccio, whereas additionally making forty five appearances for Morocco — she by no means travelled anyplace to see him in movement. Not even when he was taking half in in Paris, the place she lives, and the place Walid was born forty seven years in the past. Not as quickly as.

but she has been in Doha for the rationale that start of the FIFA World Cup, sorted by the Moroccan FA like all of the visiting households of gamers and workers. And it is honest to say that she has been her son’s fortunate allure.

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Walid Regragui’s story on this match is a soccer fairy story. Eight months in the past, when the Atlas Lions licensed for Qatar 2022, the earlier proper-again would by no means have imagined that he’d have sat on the bench of the nationwide crew by means of the match. There had been rumours about him changing Vahid Halilhodzic on the helm, however they by no means went further. but on Wednesday, he’ll face Didier Deschamps’ France for a spot on the earth Cup remaining.

Regragui grew up on the Montconseil council property in Corbeil-Essonnes, inside the suburbs to the south of Paris. His dad was a builder, who requested his son solely to do effectively in school. So Walid did. He was clever, incomes his baccalaureate diploma earlier than going to a college to consider economics.

in the meantime, his profession took off inside the decrease leagues, starting inside the fifth division and progressing all of the biggest method to Ligue 1; it started with Rudi Garcia, the earlier Lille, AS Roma and Lyon supervisor, who started his managerial profession years in the past in Corbeil.

“Rudi modified my life,” Regragui mentioned. “i used to be 19 when he coached me and instructed me that I may develop to be professional.”

On Wednesday, Garcia shall be inside the commentary discipline for French tv on the Al Bayt Stadium for his good friend’s most vital recreation.

For all of the people who know Regragui or have met him all by means of his taking half in profession — collectively with France striker Olivier Giroud, who loved one preseason teaching camp with him in 2007 at Grenoble — it was by no means uncertain that the Parisian was going to be a supervisor after he stopped taking half in.

“He was very clever, method above common. And he was preferred by every participant in every dressing room. His social abilities had been implausible,” mentioned Roland Courbis, who managed him at Ajaccio.

these social abilities — Regragui additionally speaks French, Arabic and English — are what enabled him to deliver again Hakim Ziyech and Noussair Mazraoui to the nationwide crew. each of them had refused to play underneath Halilhodzic. After a chat with Regragui, they acquired here again and are important cogs on this implausible journey.

earlier than taking over Morocco following Halilhodzic’s exit, Regragui acquired the African Champions League with WAC Casablanca, defeating Al-Ahly 2-zero in may. It was a sort of self-validation that he was ready for extra. regardless of the exact confirmed actuality that he did not count on to swap Halilhodzic in August so shut to the start of the World Cup, he took the prospect with open arms.

it is worth noting there was no on the spot stress on Regragui to excel in Qatar: the one factor talked about in his contract was a objective of reaching a minimal of the semifinals on the 2024 Africa Cup of nations. Initially, the World Cup was seen as a bonus, however not anymore.

Out of the 26 gamers acknowledged as up by the supervisor, 14 weren’t born in Morocco, and a few even performed on the youth stage for the nations of their beginning (Canada, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain and Italy) earlier than choosing to symbolize the nation of their mom and father or grandparents. Regragui’s success comes proper down to how he is been in a place to unite these gamers and make this squad gel.

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Craig Burley is full of reward for Morocco’s efficiency and resilience after they develop to be the major African crew to make it to a World Cup semifinal.

“we’re an exact crew, an exact squad, the place everyone fights for every completely different and that is all proper down to him,” playmaker Sofiane Boufal instructed ESPN.

Morocco misplaced two starters in Imran Louza and Amine Harit — the latter arrived in Doha on Monday to assist the crew — by means of damage earlier than the match, which was an limitless blow, however Regragui regrouped everyone and located the exact replacements and options.

His defensive-minded 4-three-three formation is safe and his squad is effectively-drilled, with every man understanding his position. Morocco boast the right defence of the rivals, conceding simply one objective in 5 video games, and with the ball, they rely closely on Boufal and Ziyech. however it actually works they usually will not change something.

there may even be no such factor as a doubt that Regragui is destined for good issues as a supervisor. After Morocco, he is concentrating on a job in Ligue 1, however proper now there may even be nonetheless a trophy to win. Regragui and his gamers made historic previous by turning into the major African nation to discover the semifinals of a World Cup.

Now Fatima, and all of the completely different mothers and family of this distinctive squad, are decided to come again house with the trophy.

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