How Regargui created the Moroccan football fairy tale


DOHA, Qatar – Fatima Regragui is in her late sixties. When his son Walid was a professional player – he had spells with teams in the French league such as Toulouse And ajacciowhile also performing 45 Morocco – She’s never gone anywhere to see him in action. Not even when he was playing in Paris, where she lives and where Walid was born 47 years ago. not once.

Still he’s from the beginning of Doha FIFA World Cup, are looked after by the Moroccan FA like all visiting families of players and staff. And it would be fair to say that she has been her son’s lucky charm.

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Walid Regragui’s story in this tournament is a football fairy tale. Eight months ago, when the Atlas Lions qualified for Qatar 2022, the former right-back would never have imagined that he would be sitting on the bench for the national team during the tournament. There were rumors of him replacing Vahid Halilhodzic at the helm, but they never materialised. However, he will face Didier Deschamps on Wednesday. France To make it to the World Cup finals.

Regragui grew up on the Montconseil council estate in Corbeil-Essonnes in the suburbs south of Paris. His father was a builder, who only asked his son to do well in school. So Walid did. He was smart, earning his bachelor’s degree before going to university to study economics.

Meanwhile, his career began in the lower leagues, starting in the fifth division and progressing all the way league 1, It Started With Rudy Garcia, Former Lily, AS Roma And Lyon Manager, who started his managerial career years ago at Corbeil.

“Rudy changed my life,” Regaragui said. “I was 19 when he coached me and said I could turn professional.”

On Wednesday, Garcia will be in the commentary box for French television at Al Bayt Stadium for his friend’s most important game.

To everyone who knows Regragui or has met him during his playing career – including the France striker Olivier Giroudwho enjoyed a pre-season training camp with him in 2007 Grenoble There was never any doubt that the Parisian player was going to become a manager after he stopped playing.

“He was highly intelligent, well above average. And he was liked by every player in every dressing room. His social skills were superb,” ​​said Roland Courbis, who managed him at Ajaccio.

Those social skills — Regaragui also speaks French, Arabic and English — are what enabled him to get back prince zeich And Nussair Mazroui for the national team. Both of them refused to play under Halilhojic. After a conversation with Regargui, they return and are vital cogs in this wonderful adventure.

before going to meet Morocco after Halihojic’s departure, Regaragui wins the African Champions League with WAC Casablancabeat Al-Ahli 2–0 in May. It was a form of self-recognition that he was ready for more. Even though he didn’t expect to replace Halihojic in August so close to the start of the World Cup, he took the opportunity with open arms.

It is worth noting that there was no immediate pressure on Regaragui to excel in Qatar: the only thing mentioned in his contract was the goal of reaching at least the semi-finals at the 2024 Africa Cup of Nations. Initially, the World Cup was seen as a bonus, but not anymore.

Of the 26 players called up by the manager, 14 were not born in Morocco, and some also played at youth level for their countries of birth (Canadafrance, belgium, Netherlands, spain And Italy) before representing the country of his parents or grandparents. Regargui’s success hinges on how he is able to unite these players and gel this squad.

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Craig Burley has praised Morocco’s performance and resilience as they became the first African team to make it to a World Cup semi-final.

“We are a real team, a real squad, where everybody fights for each other and that’s all it is for,” Playwright Sofiane Boufal told ESPN.

Morocco lost two starters Imran Lauja And Amin Harith – The latter arrived in Doha on Monday to support the team – through injury ahead of the tournament, which was a major blow, but Regargui regrouped everyone and found the right replacement and solution.

Their defensive-minded 4-3-3 formation is solid and their team is well-drilled, with each man understanding his role. Morocco boasts the competition’s best defence, conceding just one goal in five games, and with the ball, they rely heavily on Boufal and Ziyech. But it works and they won’t change anything.

There is no doubt that Regargui is destined for great works as a manager. After Morocco, he aims for a job in Ligue 1 but is yet to win a trophy. Regaragui and his players made history by becoming the first African nation to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup.

Now Fatima, and all the other mothers and relatives of this extraordinary squad, are determined to come home with the trophy.

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