Morocco’s Guardiola or Mourinho’s Successor: Who is the man who brought down giant after giant in Qatar

Morocco continues to create sensation after sensation at the 2022 World Cup. However, before the start of the tournament, the team was torn apart by scandals between the previous coach Vahid Halilhodzic and some of the stars. Three months before the start of the World Cup, the Bosnian was fired, and 47-year-old Walid Regragi was appointed in his place.

Some expected this to lead to negative consequences for Morocco in the style of Spain four years ago in Russia. But Regraghi has not just become a worthy replacement for Halilhodzic, he has built on his work to become the man to lead the first African team to a World Cup semi-final.

Having eliminated teams like Spain and Portugal along the way! Without conceding a single goal against them!

Regraghi was born in the suburbs of Paris to a family of Moroccan immigrants. Walid’s father wants his son to work in an office, but Regraghi chooses football. He spent almost his entire career in France with the unassuming teams of FC Paris, Toulouse, Ajaccio, Dijon and Grenoble. Between 2004 and 2007 he kicked in La Liga with the Racing team.

Despite having over 150 games in Ligue 1 and Ligue 2, Regraghi chose to represent Morocco at national level. Scored 45 for the Lions, leading the national team to the final of the 2004 African Cup of Nations, when Morocco lost 2-1 to hosts Tunisia.

Regraghi began his coaching career in the national team. Three years after hanging up his boots in 2009, he became Rashid Tausi’s assistant. He served only a year, after which his club career began. He led the Moroccan FUS Rabat for six years, leading it to the first title in its history in 2016. Two years later, he also won the Cup.

Because of his successes, at the local level, Regraghi began to be compared to the top coaches in the world. “After I won the Cup with FUS, I was nicknamed the Moroccan Guardiola, while others call me Mourinho’s Successor – says the coach. – But every coach has his own philosophy. I’m a mix between Guardiola and Mourinho! My coaching style is closer to Pep, but during the press conferences I act like Jose.”

In 2020, Regraghi went to work in Qatar. Al-Duhail took over, with whom he immediately won the title. His good work in Qatar brought him back to Morocco again to take charge of Ouidad. With him, Regraghi became champion again, also winning the Asian Champions League, becoming only the second Moroccan coach to win the trophy.

It was then that the rumors about his appointment at the head of the national team began. There is talk of a difference of opinion between Halilhodzic and the president of the Moroccan Federation. The Bosnian is the only coach in history to have qualified four different teams to world football finals: Ivory Coast, Algeria, Japan and Morocco. But he always faces the same problem – in three of those four cases, Halilhodzic has been dismissed before the start of the tournament.

Photo: Getty Images

Halilhodzic laid the foundations of this wonderful Moroccan team. In World Cup qualifiers, Morocco recorded 6/6 group wins with a goal difference of 20:1. In the playoff phase, he defeated DR Congo 5:2 and won a visa for the 2022 World Cup without any problems. The 70-year-old Bosnian lost his job not because of his work, but because of his grumpy character.

Despite the wonderful games of the team, the specialist turned even the fans against him. Because of him, one of the big stars – Hakim Ziesh, had not played for the national team since June 2021. He and 25-year-old Nusair Mazraoui, who moved from Ajax to Bayern Munich in the summer, were not called up by Halilhodzic and are now among the heroes for Morocco in Qatar.

In an interview with the French publication “So Foot”, Halilhodzic explains his choice: “When you come to a new country, you don’t know the footballers very well. I’ve watched at least a thousand videos. I refreshed 80% of the composition. We had to find new young players for the national team. A coach must be judged by his results. Morocco have never achieved better results in world qualifying, with seven wins, one draw and an average of three goals scored per game.

I didn’t agree with the policy of not calling local players. This created misunderstanding between the fans of different clubs, between the local footballers and the legionnaires. The pressure from the Federation has not stopped. They wanted me to call out three or four specific players, even though the team was achieving remarkable results without them. I did not bend because otherwise I would lose my authority.

Some of them had refused to play for Morocco, they were waiting to see if they would be able to play for Spain, Italy or France. But during the qualifiers they changed their minds! They had to be with us when we traveled to Kinshasa or Guinea where there was a military rebellion.

With this Moroccan team that I created, we can achieve something significant at the World Cup. I would like to end my career with a successful World Cup.”

Morocco have now advanced from their 2022 World Cup group for the first time in 36 years and become the first African team to reach the semi-finals of a World Cup, not with Halilhodzic in charge but Walid Regraghi.

Photo: Getty Images

The 47-year-old specialist speaks Arabic, French, Spanish and English, which is extremely important because a large part of his selection of footballers were not born in Morocco.

In his coaching style, Regraghi takes inspiration from his days as a defender. Morocco leave possession to the opposition for huge periods of the match and concentrate mainly on defence. This is how clean sheets are achieved against Croatia, Belgium, Spain and Portugal. In five games in Qatar, the Moroccans have conceded just one goal and are the team with the best defense.

And even after reaching the semi-final, the coach does not like to be praised: “I have always said that everything depends on the players. There are coaches who want to think of them as magicians, but it is always easy when you have good players. I try to give them the maximum amount of confidence and give them the basics. After that, it’s up to them.”

Regraghi might be described as a cross between Guardiola and Mourinho, but this philosophy suggests that he certainly has something of Carlo Ancelotti in him.

And when he says his job is to instill confidence in his players, he’s not lying.

“I have always said that we should have solid ambitions, the boys are of the same opinion – says Regraghi. – Why not win the World Cup? We believe that this is possible from the beginning. The footballers realized that they should forget about all the complexes . We can inspire Africa. The whole continent is developing and Morocco has a big role to play in that.”

Morocco and Regraghi are indeed making history in Qatar. We can only wish them success.


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