Morocco can leave the #WorldCup with their heads held high. Photo: Martin Divisek/EPA
Morocco can leave the #WorldCup with their heads held high. Photo: Martin Divisek/EPA
Morocco deserved better than they got at the #FifaWorldCup, says Rodney Neiners.
Morocco deserved better than they got at the #FifaWorldCup, says Rodney Neiners.

CAPE TOWN – When Lady Luck turns on you, she sure as hell does a good job. Ask Morocco.

Really, this impressive, admirable North African side deserved far better at the 2018 World Cup.

In all three games in Russia, they were on the wrong side of a few key, match-defining decisions from the officials; at the same time, they had no luck with some inviting scoring opportunities, like the stinging shot from Nordin Amrabat that nearly broke the crossbar in the 2-2 draw with Spain at the Kaliningrad Stadium on Monday night.

Sometimes football can be such a cruel sport.

They always say that you change hard luck through hard work - well, Morocco will probably disagree because they certainly put in the effort, and much, much more, for absolutely no reward.

But, at least, the Moroccans are able to go home with their heads held high; they did the team, the coach and the country proud.

Portugal and Spain are two of the best teams in the world and Morocco gave both of them the fright of their lives.

On Monday, La Roja were very fortunate to come away with a point as the north Africans frustrated their attacking passing game - and, when the Atlas Lions gained possession, they were swift, enterprising and decisive in bombing forward with confidence and bravado.

Iago Aspas (second right) of Spain argues with Moroccan players Youssef En-Nesyri (left) and Romain Saiss (right) during their match in Kaliningrad, Russia. Photo: Armando Babani/EPA

Most noticeable about the Moroccans was their desire, urgency, commitment and refusal to be cowed by the illustrious names in the Spanish side.

They got in the faces of the opposition, they were aggressive throughout, and disciplined in defence - unfortunately, though, luck was just not on their side.

But, for me, Morocco have made a real statement of intent as to the future; they are a team to watch. Bring on the next Africa Cup of Nations.

As for Morocco coach, the dashing Herve Renard, he has become a bit of a hit with women audiences in Russia.

Notwithstanding the film-star looks, there is no doubting the 49-year-old Frenchman’s coaching ability.

Morocco's coach Herve Renard (left) and Spain's coach Fernando Hierro pitch-side during their match in Kaliningrad, Russia. Photo: Martin Divisek/EPA

He has won Afcon twice, with Zambia and the Ivory Coast, and now, despite the disappointment of having crashed out in the group stages of the World Cup, his work with Morocco will elevate his status even further.

It’s also no secret that Renard has previously been on Safa’s radar for the Bafana Bafana coaching job.

And, talking about that radar, the other perennial name linked with the position is Mozambican-born Carlos Queiroz - and, boy, how well has his Iran team performed at Russia 2018?

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The excellent work of both Renard and Queiroz, with Morocco and Iran respectively, will have the namby-pamby, puffed-up suits pacing up and down the corridors of Safa.

While Stuart Baxter has the job right now, with a contract in place, it is likely that, when the time comes for a coaching change (and it will, with Bafana it always does), then I guess we should probably expect to see either Renard or Queiroz next in line.




Cape Argus

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