For many, Morocco has been the shock star of World Cup in Qatar. How did the Atlas Lions get to the final four of the most prestigious competition in world football?

Return of Morocco’s chosen son

The heir to the Moroccan coaching throne may have taken his place at the perfect time.

Affectionately nicknamed “Rass l’Avocat” (Avocado Head) because of his bald head, Regragui was a hard-tackling defender who, despite being born in France, chose to represent the nation of his family, notching up 45 caps.

Once his coaching career began, it was a matter of when — not if — he would take charge of the national team. Many Moroccans thought it could be after the World Cup or in a few years. But none were unhappy when it was announced he would take over the national side fewer than 100 days before their first game at the World Cup.

In African football, Regragui has often been compared with José Mourinho thanks to his tactical discipline and stellar man-management skills. Both of those have been present in the World Cup.

Regragui is a French-born Moroccan. He has assembled the most nationally diverse team at the World Cup – 14 of the 26 players were born outside of Morocco, from six different countries – and has seamlessly integrated his group into one coherent unit.

World Cup tournaments can be tough emotionally to navigate – players are away from home for weeks. But Regragui has counteracted that by allowing the players’ families to stay with the team in camp in Qatar.

A federation taking soccer seriously

The Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FMRF) should also be credited with the Atlas Lions’ success at Qatar 2022.

After decades of footballing mediocrity, the FMRF – with the backing of King Mohammed VI – decided to overhaul the nation’s football structure.

In 2009 the FMRF opened its national football academy, which helped develop current international players like Nayef Aguerd and Youssef En-Nesryi, who scored in Saturday’s epic victory over Portugal.

The crown jewel of Morocco’s football investment is the Mohamed VI Football Complex just outside Rabat.

The training complex contains four five-star hotels, eight FIFA standard pitches – one of which is indoor in a climate-controlled building – as well as a medical facility that includes a dentist.

That investment over the last decade has begun to pay off.

Quoted from Various Sources

Published for: Mr Blow Up