Football: the beginning of a new era for the Atlas Lions?



QA few weeks after the departure of Vahid Halilhodzic, Morocco shows a new face with the great debut of Walid Regragui. For the great premiere of the former Wydad coach, the first impression is very positive, with a victory against Chile (2-0) and a draw against Paraguay (0-0), both with pleasant content and efficient.

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Walid Regragui, an engaging journey

After having been assistant coach of the Moroccan selection, he started as number one on the benches of FUS Rabat, from 2014. He was at the origin of a Throne Cup a few months later and especially of the first league title in 2016, one point ahead of Wydad. At the club until 2020, he joined Qatar and the Al-Duhail club, which he will make champion for his only season, before returning to the country to take up the challenge offered by Wydad Casablanca. Between Regragui and Wydad Athletic Club, the collaboration immediately bore fruit, culminating in a national championship-Champions League double, the treble having been narrowly missed in the final of the Throne Cup, lost on penalties against the RS Berkane. This was also Regragui’s last match at the head of the WAC with the incident being an expulsion in the last minutes of the extension of this highly tense final.

This success, Wydad has built it with players found in the first list of the new coach of the Atlas Lions. There is in this case captain Yahya Jabrane (defensive midfielder, 31 years old), Yahia Attiat-Allah (left back, 27 years old), Ahmed Tagnatoui (goalkeeper, 26 years old) and finally Ashraf Dari (central defender, 23 years), trained at the club and transferred to Brest this summer. If Tagnatoui (3 caps) has been international since 2017, his three teammates all made their selection debuts under Coach Vahid, proof that the Moroccan national football championship is also a reservoir of players able to compete directly at international level. .

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Counters reset

Why did Regragui take over as coach now? One of the main reasons, beyond the convincing results obtained as a club coach, was to ease the increasingly strong tensions within the selection. These had resulted in the sidelining of several senior players from the team that Hervé Renard had trained between 2016 and 2019. Unifying and open with his players, he imposed himself on the president of the Moroccan federation Lekjaa football, but there is also the need for important decisions to be made for the future, such as the returns of Hachim Ziyech, Noussair Mazraoui or Younès Belhanda. They had no intention of returning to the national team as long as Coach Vahid remained coach of Morocco. The decision therefore responded to a national requirement.

Another reason for his appointment: his background. Born and raised in France, but having spent the vast majority of his coaching career in Morocco, he has a good profile to bridge the gap between talents trained or playing in the country and players from the diaspora, particularly from France. , the Netherlands, Belgium, but also Italy (Walid Cheddira, striker from Bari, 2e Italian division) or Germany (Abdelhamid Sabiri, Sampdoria midfielder). His plus points: he speaks French, Arabic, English and Spanish.

Walid Regragui, an approach that can make a difference

Offering football that relies more on the qualities of the players than on the requirements of the coach, Regragui has the pragmatism of a coach ready to adapt to what he has at hand. The 2-0 victory over Chile is already a founding match for the Atlas Lions. “I’m happy because, tactically, we responded. We can have several tactical plans thanks to the players we have. We have a lot of options and all the players want to score points and show their full potential to earn a starting spot,” he added. This positive result is a good omen before the World Cup, a competition where you have to be mentally strong and have patience. You have to be patient in the weak beats, and in the strong beats play with the rhythm and be able to project yourself forward,” he said.

Following this victory and the draw obtained against a very catchy Paraguay, Morocco achieved a satisfactory performance. “I learned several lessons from this meeting. Admittedly, during the first half, we lacked intensity and rhythm, but I appreciated the attitude of the players. Unlike the game against Chile, we played an open game against a strong team that demanded an extra effort from us. Now we have to work on the mental side. We still have to work hard to reach our best level before the World Cup,” he told the Moroccan sports channel Arryadia.

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The realization of substantive work?

If the selection of Morocco finds itself in an interesting position, it owes it to the substantive work carried out at all levels. In terms of training, significant progress has been made for several years. There is certainly a very large number of players trained abroad, but the team has eight who have trained in Morocco. The Mohamed VI Academy consolidates its reputation with players like Tagnatoui, En Nesryi and Ounani. It should, in the years to come, provide more players for the selection.

Wydad, trainer of Bono (Sevilla FC) and Achraf Dari, both holders in matches against Chile and against Paraguay, has had its own facilities since 2018, following the takeover for nearly 5.7 million euros. euros of the Wellness complex, equipped with several football pitches, a stadium with synthetic turf and a four-star hotel.

Finally, in recent days, Raja Casablanca announced the delivery of its football academy, which will be based in Bouskoura, a town located about twenty kilometers from Casablanca. We can also mention the two clubs in the capital, the Royal Armed Forces (FAR) and FUS Rabat, as other clubs with academies worthy of the name.

Finally, on a purely sporting level, the Botola Pro, Moroccan championship, continues to assert itself as the best on the continent in terms of both the quality of the football offered and that of the spectacle in the stands. The results obtained in CAF interclub cups (Champions League, CAF Cup) over the last five to ten years illustrate this reality well. This domination has also materialized in two consecutive titles of the local national team during CHAN 2018 and 2020.

We could also highlight the quality of the facilities in general which led Morocco to be a candidate for the organization of the 2010 World Cup, to be the host country of the last women’s CAN or also the host country of many matches. selections or clubs that do not have stadiums that meet the standards required by CAF. All these reasons justify the very good health of Moroccan football.

This must now be concretized by a rise of the national team at the forefront in Africa, even worldwide. At the next World Cup in Qatar, it is also, with Senegal, one of the best African chances of going all the way despite a difficult group to negotiate.

READ ALSOMorocco: Walid Regragui replaces Halilhodzic at the head of the selection

A promising future for the selection

Placed in a difficult group including Croatia, finalists of the last World Cup, Belgium, third in the 2018 World Cup, and Canada, Morocco must approach the World Cup proactively by relying on the qualities of its players. . Capable of taking the game on their own against any team, as was the case during the 2018 World Cup, Morocco have good cards to play provided they pay attention to the details that matter a lot at most. high level. Thus the lack of realism in the face of the goal. Let’s bet that with Walid Regragui in charge the Atlas Lions will still be able to complete the margin that separates them so far from a trophy. In other words, in Qatar, everything will be possible.

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