Morocco coach Walid Regragui confirmed that Saudi Arabia’s amazing surprise victory over Argentina, the World Cup candidate, raised the enthusiasm of his players and encouraged him to achieve a similar achievement when he faces Croatia in the first match of Group F on Wednesday.
Al-Akhdar Saudi Arabia, second in the World Cup standings, led by former Moroccan coach Hervé Renard, beat Argentina 2-1, led by Lionel Messi, to achieve one of the biggest shocks in the history of the tournament.
Morocco occupies 10 places behind Croatia, the runner-up of the 2018 World Cup, in the world rankings, and Rekragui said that the way the Saudis outperformed Argentina inspired his team.
“I watched the Saudi game earlier – 31 percent possession, and they had three shots on goal, but they beat Argentina, against the best player in history,” Rekragui said, in a press conference.
He added, “If Croatia won’t let us have all the ball tomorrow (Wednesday), well, we need to be very strong in defence. If they decide to give us that playing time, we need to know exactly what we’re going to do with the ball when we get it.”
Renard helped rebuild the Moroccan national team, leading it to the World Cup in Russia four years ago in its first appearance in the tournament since 1998.
Rekragui congratulated Renard on his victory and said he was looking forward to following in his footsteps.
“This changes things on the international scene, because in reality football belongs to everyone,” Rekragui added.
“You have FIFA ratings, but you must respect all footballers, leagues and leagues,” he said.
“For a coach like me, I want to follow in his (Reynard’s) footsteps,” Regragui said. “I hope he opened the door for us. He showed us what we can do and I hope we will be able to feel the same way Saudi Arabia feels.”
Morocco’s captain, Roman Sayess, said the Saudi victory “proved once again that everything is possible in football.”
“When you see the result that (Saudi Arabia) managed to achieve against one of the favorites, it makes your creativity flow,” Rekragui added.
“It whets our appetite,” he said.
He stressed, “If you are able to put the ingredients in the mix, you can beat anyone. That is exactly what Renard did. He opened that door for us, and it is up to us to follow in their footsteps tomorrow.”