AL RAYYAN - Morocco want to make World Cup history on Saturday when they meet Portugal in the quarter-finals, saying they are not satisfied despite breaking new ground for Arab football and equalling the best achievement by an African team.
The north Africans' coach Walid Regragui said they would start as underdogs against Portugal but had proved they were genuine challengers in Qatar and were hungry for more success.
If they win at the Al Thumama Stadium, Morocco will be the first African side to reach the last four while they are already the first Arab country to advance to the last eight.
“We have already achieved great things but we feel it’s not enough, we want to go further,” Regragui told a news conference on Friday.
“We’ve already proven all the data analysts wrong about Belgium’s chance and Spain too. They all thought we’d lose to them.”
Morocco finished top of their first-round group after drawing with Croatia and beating Belgium and Canada, before edging Spain on penalties in the last 16.
But it has come at a cost with key defender Nayef Aguerd a doubt for Saturday’s game after a hamstring injury and other key players, like skipper Romain Saiss and midfield workhorse Sofyan Amrabat, also carrying injuries.
“We're not going to hide it, we're tired,” said the coach, who was only haned the job three months before the World Cup.
“But when you go this far in the tournament you have to count on everybody in the squad. So if Nayef cannot play then someone else will have to take his place. We won’t be looking for excuses, we are here on a mission.”
Regragui said several players had arrived in Qatar carrying injuries and niggles and been forced to play through them.
"You haven’t seen Morocco at 100%, but mentally we are strong,” he added.
The coach also felt the support at the stadium would again be key. Morocco have enjoyed passionate backing in all four of their games and Saturday is expected to be no different.
“The energy is fantastic. People are identifying with us. It has been great to see our people happy but for us the important thing remains a chance to write history,” Regragui said.
Portugal will be a formidable opponent, he added.
“It’s a big challenge against one of the best teams in the world. They could field two or three high quality teams at this World Cup,” Regragui said of the depth in the Portuguese squad.
“They might be a bit fresher than our guys. I’m not sure if Cristiano Ronaldo plays but I hope he doesn’t. He’s one of the greatest ever and I’d be delighted if he didn’t play against us.”
(Reproting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Ken Ferris)