Regragui hails Morocco effort after semi-final loss
Morocco's Head Coach Walid Regragui waves to fans at the end of the World Cup semi-final football match against France at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, on Wednesday, December 14, 2022. (Photo: AP)

DOHA, Qatar (AFP) — Morocco Coach Walid Regragui had only praise for his team's effort after their fairytale run to the World Cup semi-finals ended in a 2-0 defeat to France on Wednesday.

"We gave our all, that's the most important thing. The boys fought until the last minute," said Regragui, who had won praise for the way his team came past Spain and Portugal in the previous two rounds.

"We wanted to win the game, but we came up against a strong team that knows what it is doing and waits for you to make a mistake — which we made at the beginning of the game," he said, referring to Theo Hernandez's fifth-minute opener.

Regragui had to deal with a number of players struggling for full fitness. Centre-back Nayef Aguerd withdrew after the warm-up, with Achraf Dari stepping in.

Fellow defender and Captain Romain Saiss, who had been doubtful, started but had to go off after just 21 minutes.

"We lost a lot of players who did their best, [Noussair] Mazraoui was ill but he played. Saiss too. I have nothing to say when the players give their maximum," Regragui said.

Morocco pushed forward throughout the game in search of a leveller but lacked the killer touch in the penalty areas.

"We could have scored, but unfortunately a goal didn't come. May the Moroccans forgive us. We wanted to go to the final but... next time God willing," he said.

"We gave the maximum, that's the most important thing. The most important thing is to have given a good image, to have shown the world that Moroccan football exists and that we have beautiful supporters.

"To reach the very, very highest level, to win a World Cup, we still have to work but we are not very far away," he added.

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