Morocco coach Walid Regragui had only praise for his team’s efforts after their fairytale run at the World Cup ended in a 2-0 semifinal defeat to France on Wednesday.
“We gave our all, that’s the most important thing. The boys fought until the last minute,” said Regragui, whose team shocked Spain and Portugal in the previous two rounds.
Theo Hernandez put France ahead in the fifth minute of the match and Regragui said that the early blow had a huge impact on the match.
“If I have any regrets about this game, it would be mainly conceding that goal quickly – it gave the French team even more certainty to stick with their approach,” he said.
Morocco had progressed through the tournament in Qatar by winning games despite often ceding possession.
It was a different story at the Al Bayt stadium, where Regragui’s team enjoyed 51 percent possession but were unable to break through the French defence.
“We said that if they gave us the ball, we would take it. We did that but we made too many technical mistakes in the first half,” said the Morocco coach.
“In the second half we were smarter, we gave away fewer balls and we caused them problems, creating a lot of opportunities but we weren’t decisive in that final 30 metres.
“We wanted to get a goal and give them some doubts. But with their attacking talents, we knew we could be punished at any moment and that’s what happened with the second goal.”
Regragui had to deal with a number of injury concerns. Centre-back Nayef Aguerd withdrew after the warm-up, with Achraf Dari stepping in.
Fellow defender and captain Romain Saiss, who had been a doubt, started but had to go off in the 21st minute.
“We lost a lot of players who did their best. (Noussair) Mazraoui was ill but he played, Saiss too. I have nothing to say when the players give their maximum,” Regragui said.
“We could have scored, but unfortunately a goal didn’t come. May the Moroccans forgive us. We wanted to go to the final but... next time, God willing.”
Regragui, born in France, was proud that his team had made their presence felt on the biggest stage.
“We gave the maximum, that’s the most important thing,” he said. “The most important thing is to have given a good image, to have shown the world that Moroccan football exists and that we have beautiful supporters.
“To reach the very, very highest level, to win a World Cup, we still have to work but we are not very far away.”