orocco coach Walid Regragui challenged the country to become regulars in the latter stages of the World Cup and said his players had made the world proud following their semi-final defeat to France.
Morocco more than held their own against the holders but went down to Theo Hernandez’s early goal and substitute Randal Kolo Muani’s late one, as Les Blues set up a mouth-watering final against Argentina on Sunday.
“I’d like us to qualify for every World Cup,” said Regragui afterwards. “We need to show that regularity and in the future people will see it is normal that Morocco reaches this stage of the World Cup. We’ve shown Africans now that we’re capable of going toe to toe with top sides like France, Brazil and England.
“We need to work hard, to show this regularly, to prove this is no accident.
“We realised that we’ve made a great achievement already. We know through the media and on social media and TV we saw the pictures and saw everyone was proud in our country. We’re disappointed for the Moroccan people tonight because we wanted to keep their dream alive.
“Of course we’re pleased with what we have achieved but we felt we could go even further. The small details that help champions win we saw [from France] tonight. They have substitutes who can make a difference and we saw that too. I said to the players I’m proud of them. His Majesty is proud, the whole world is proud.
“We’re given a good image of Morocco and African football. That was also important for us because we were playing for our country and continent. People already respected us but I think they respect us more now.”
Regragui named a number of injury doubts in his starting XI but centre-half Nayef Aguerd pulled out of the side before kick-off while his partner, captain Romain Saiss, was forced off inside 20 minutes after being clearly impeded by a hamstring problem.
Morocco switched to a 4-3-3 system and dominated the middle third of the game against a France side who were forced into a number of last-ditch tackles and blocks.
“We did cause them problems and that’s already quite an achievement,” said Regragui. “It was one step too far [for us], not in terms of quality and tactics but we had too many players at 60 or 70 percent and have done for a few games.
“Our players gave everything. They’ve given a good image of our team all over the world and gone as far as they could.
“They wanted to rewrite the history books but you can’t win a World Cup through miracles. You could do it with hard work and that’s what we’ll do, we’ll keep working.”
Regragui insisted he wanted to win Saturday’s third-place play-off against Croatia to make Moroccans proud but hinted he would make changes for the game against the 2018 runners-up.
“It’s going to be a challenge mentally,” he said “We have a lot of players injured, we’re on our last legs. We want to win but I also want to allow players who haven’t played to go out there and show what they can do. We’re going to try to win but I have a lot of players who need to recover.
“Give us a bit of time to recover and we’ll try to make our country proud and win that third place.”