Soccer-Morocco coach hails fighting spirit and passionate crowd


Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Group F - Belgium v Morocco - Al Thumama Stadium, Doha, Qatar - November 27, 2022 Morocco coach Walid Regragui celebrates after the match REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

DOHA (Reuters) - Morocco coach Walid Regragui repeatedly hailed his players' fighting spirit and the passionate support of the crowd but warned his side had "achieved nothing" even after their shock 2-0 World Cup win over Belgium on Sunday.

Morocco upset the highly ranked Belgians, after holding Croatia to a draw in their first game, to advance to four points and put themselves in the driving seat in Group F with a game against Canada to come.

"Today we have achieved nothing. I know everyone is delighted but I know football and you need to respect the game. I want everybody to be happy now but we need to recover quickly and get back to work. Canada will be a hard team to play and we have to respect them," the victorious coach told a news conference after the unexpected victory at the Al Thumama Stadium.

"We have to keep fighting, we want to get past this round and go to the next level."

Regragui was effusive in praising his own squad and what he called their "fight".

"We played against one of the best teams in the world with big players, but we know that if you don’t give 100%, it is impossible to win. With these players and these fans, anything is possible."

Morocco were urged forward by the encouragement of the vast majority of the 43,738-strong crowd, who gave them added wings as they looks to be tiring.

Regragui said Morocco had looked to be cautious initially: "We were humble enough in the first half to defend and know they will have most of the possession. We put in a lot of effort and came out in the second half to play a bit more.

MAXIMUM EFFORT

"I said to the players we were going to have to put in maximum effort to get the ball off them. We wanted to stop them finding (Kevin) De Bruyne and (Eden) Hazard. Sometimes you have to be patient and wait for your chance to come."

Skipper Romain Saiss got a feint touch to Abdelhamid Sabiri’s shot from an impossibly tight angle, just five minutes after coming on, to hand Morocco the lead in the 73rd minute followed by Zakaria Aboukhlal’s stoppage time second goal.

Sabiri’s free kick from near the corner flag caught out Belgium’s highly rated goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois at the near post as it curled in.

"Courtois tends to keep a space at his near post because he is a very tall goalkeeper, and he did that again and was caught out," Regrgaui said.

(Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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