World Cup heartbreak or not, Moroccan coach Walid Regragui declares his love for France, the country of his birth

Walid Regragui is undaunted by the challenge of facing France on Wednesday. Picture: Friedemann Vogel EPA

Walid Regragui is undaunted by the challenge of facing France on Wednesday. Picture: Friedemann Vogel EPA

Published Dec 14, 2022


Cape Town - Ahead of the World Cup semi-final against France, Morocco's French-born coach Walid Regragui could be facing a heartbreaking defeat, but he has unashamedly declared his love for his "second country".

He was born in France and played for five French clubs during his career.

Regragui shared his thoughts ahead of Morocco's historic semi-final against France on Wednesday.

"I'm the coach of my country (Morocco), that's up against my second country (France)," said Regragui , adding the occasion will be "special for my loved ones, family and relatives".

Morocco’s ground-breaking run has unleashed a torrent of emotions in Regragui, after he guided the Atlas Lions to a win against Portugal, against all odds.

“I think it was the first time I've cried for a football game (after the Portugal match),” said Regragui. “It didn't last long, but the emotion was so strong that I couldn't control myself.”

Regragui is undaunted by the challenge of facing the defending champions.

“It's a great challenge for us. We came up against the last runner-up (Croatia) and third team (Belgium), so practically all the best teams in the world,” he said.

"Now this may be the toughest challenge. We respect them, and we'll give our best, as we've been doing since the start of the competition, to create an upset because obviously, if we achieve this feat, it will be an upset.

He has been unable to sidestep the question of plotting the downfall of his beloved country of birth. He remains unwavering in his love for France.

"It's mostly special for my loved ones, family and relatives. It's somehow special for me too, since I'm also French and grew up in France," said Regragui.

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"However, I'm trying to escape this debate and think only about football. I'm the coach of my country, that's up against my second country, so to speak, and the objective is to knock out France. It's a football game, and that's all it is, and in no way does it take away my love for France."

Wednesday's second World Cup 2022 semi-final will pit two-time champions and holders France against Morocco, who are unbeaten in Qatar.

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Morocco have stunned the footballing world, not once or twice, but three times, by beating some of the sport’s superpowers in Belgium, Spain and Portugal.

The match will be played at the 68 000-seater Al-Bayt Stadium in Qatar and kickoff is at 9pm (SA time).


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