What a difference a year can make! It has emerged that 12 months ago Morocco manager Walid Regragui was hunched over his laptop screen, taking down notes as part of a Zoom seminar with Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta.
The fascinating revelation has come out with Regragui now 90 minutes away from guiding Morocco to the World Cup final in Qatar, in what would be one of the greatest achievements in the competition’s 92-year history.
Arteta was presenting a tactics seminar on Zoom, using Arsenal’s victory over Manchester City as one of the examples to explain his coaching and tactical philosophies. Regragui was manager of Moroccan side Wydad AC during this call and was putting in the work away from the spotlight to improve himself as a coach.
Now Regragui is plotting a tactical masterplan for Morocco as they prepare to take on reigning world champions France on Wednesday night. He will need to devise a strategy that can nullify the threat of tournament topscorer Kylian Mbappe, as well as keep Olivier Giroud, the matchwinner against England, from influencing proceedings.
Morocco’s plan in this tournament has been to stay defensively resolute before springing for a goal on the counter attack. The North Africans have successfully shut out Croatia, one of the other semi-finalists, Belgium, Spain and Portugal en route to the last four.
Responding to critics of his defensive-first style of play, Regragui was definitive that they will not compromise their beliefs in order to win more style points.
“We’re going to play like we know how,” he said. “Possession is extraordinarily misleading – you can have 70 per cent possession and you only shoot twice. There’s expected goals too: “We should have won, we had four expected goals!” We’re here to win, that’s all.”
No African nation has ever reached a World Cup final and so Regragui, just 12 months on from scribbling down the tactical musings of Arteta, stands on the cusp of even more history.
- A Daily Mail report