The star of the Moroccan national team and its miracle worker… What do you know about coach Walid Rekragui?
Although it was Bosnia and Herzegovina coach Wahid Khalilhozic who led the Moroccan elite to reserve a place at the World Cup in Qatar, after the victory over the Democratic Republic of Congo, the end of his career at the helm of the national team was almost inevitable. , after the Moroccan public demanded his dismissal.
So Walid Regragui came to coach the Lions, less than three months before the start of the World Cup, so he was faced with a difficult task to achieve the achievement that Moroccans have always desired. However, he managed to achieve a valuable draw and victory in his first two matches, against Croatia and Belgium, promising to overcome the obstacle of Canada and reach the second round.
Al-Raqiraki on top of lions
The selection of Regragui as the coach of their national team represented a moment of relief for the Moroccan public, after a long controversy created by the previous coach, the Bosnian Vahid Khalilhozić. Although the latter managed to lead the national team to the quarter-finals of the African Cup of Nations in 2021 and after the “Hitchcock scenario” secure a place at the World Cup, he deprived the national team of a number of its prominent names with his presence.
International names such as Chelsea striker Hakim Ziyech and Bayern defender Naseer Mazrawi remained absent in the last period of the BiH coach’s mandate, due to problems between them and the coach, which eventually turned into something of a personal conflict. This added to Khalilozic’s coaching options, which did not focus on a specific formation, which negatively affected the team’s performance.
After the uncertainty surrounding the fate of the Bosnian coach at the head of the Atlas Lions, the Royal Moroccan Football League announced at the end of August the decision to appoint former Moroccan national team player Walid Rekragui as his successor.
The matter met with great approval at local level, due to the successful season Regraki spent with Wydad Casablanca, managing to lead the team to the title of the Moroccan league and the African Champions League, in addition to reaching the final of the Moroccan Throne Cup, in addition to winning the championship and the cup with the club Al -Fath Al-Rabati, who trained him for six years before her.
The appointment of Regragui as the head of the Moroccan national team was accompanied by the return of a number of prominent Moroccan players, who were tested in two friendlies last September.
A dream in the making
At the press conference that followed his appointment, Walid Regraki was clear in his statement: “At the moment I have a short-term project focused on preparations for the World Cup. I can’t change the base of the team that exists now, but I will have one or two touches,” before which he added: “I know the pressure is there, and it’s a challenge for me (…), but we all agree that we don’t want to go to the World Cup and play only three games.”
Regraki tried to fulfill these promises, even though the draw of the cup placed him in the “group of death”, and he was joined by the Croatian national team, the runner-up in the world, Belgium second in the world, and Canada with its youth. team, which rose to the top of the North American qualifiers.
However, “if we rely on the market value, then the Moroccan national team is the strongest of the Arab national teams”, says Moroccan sports analyst Ayman Zizi in an interview with TRT Arabi, and therefore has a “great chance” of passing in the second round, “due to the presence of a number of skilled player in his team.” On the other hand, he does not deny that he also has a difficult task ahead of him because he will play in the “group of death”, and he also has to “change the manager right before the start of the World Cup”.
Regragui managed to lead this elite group of Moroccan names through the first two games of the World Cup. The coach used conservative tactics against Croatia, trying to paralyze the Croatian midfield, which is the team’s strength, and thus managed to keep a clean sheet and win a valuable draw in their first match.
In the Belgian match, Regragui continued with a conservative approach and defensive play, without attacking risk and creating space for the opponent to threaten the goal of goalkeeper Mounir Al-Mohammadi. Around the 70th minute of the match, Regragui made two changes at the same time under the direction of Ashraf Hakimi and Sofiane Boufal, and they were replaced by Abdel Hamid Al-Sabri and Yahya Atiyatallah.
This change will turn the game around once the opponent is exhausted and the Moroccan team will go on the attack and manage to score two goals. With this victory, the Lions from Atlas came a long way to the miracle of advancing to the second round of the World Cup, and Regragui fulfilled his promises, so he will be the second coach to lead the national team to that achievement.
Regragui enters the Canada game with the sole goal of preventing defeat. This was confirmed by the coach in his statements on Wednesday, saying: “It is true that a group of players have various injuries, some of them played the last game injured, but everyone here is mentally ready to defend the national team jersey tomorrow. The most important thing is that everyone wants to play and fight in the defense of the national team jersey.” .
Walid Regragui is one of the sons of the Moroccan community in France, who are committed to the defense of the homeland. Before coaching the national team, all Moroccans remember the successes of their national team in which Regragui participated as a key player.
Most notable of these successes were the joys of the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia, when the Atlas Lions reached the final against the host nation, winning the silver medal. Regragui was then the headquarters of the team’s defense led by coach Badou Zaki and managed to protect the team’s net from the attacks of the then strongest African teams such as Nigeria and Algeria.
At the same time, Regragui played professionally for a number of European clubs, including France’s Toulouse and Spain’s Racing Santander, before retiring from playing in 2012 and turning to coaching, when he led Moroccan clubs Al-Fateh Rabat and Wydad Sportive to win the a number of national and continental championships.