Morocco head coach Walid Regragui has challenged his Atlas Lions side to win the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) if they want to cement their legendary status in football, kick442 reports.
The next major tournament for this excelling team would be the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations already scheduled for January 2024 in Cote d’Ivoire. Regragui says for this group of players to go down as the best in Moroccan history, they must win the tournament.
“Before being kings of the world, you have to be King in your own country (or continent) so it might be daunting but that’s what we have to do,” said Regragui who was a key part of the Moroccan team that lost in the 2004 AFCON final against Tunisia.
Morocco bowed out of the last AFCON in Cameroon at the quarter-final stage after a Mohammed Salah-inspired Egypt beat them 2-1.
Morocco national team coach Walid Regragui has set his eyes on bagging the 2023 African Cup of Nations title after seeing off Brazil in an international friendly match staged at the Ibna Batouta Stadium on Saturday night.
Walid Regragui avec le Maroc 🇲🇦 :
⚔️ 11 matchs
🧤 7 clean-sheets
⚽️ 13 buts
🥅 5 buts encaissés
🥇 Demi-finaliste de la CDM
🚨 Des nouveaux records mondiaux, africains et arabe… pic.twitter.com/mooz9v6TSY
— Actu Foot Maghreb (@actufootmaghreb) March 26, 2023
The tactician said in his post match press conference: ” We must not get on fire. When I say we must win the African Cup, they say that I am exaggerating. I must be careful when I say that we are not going to play for win but we only play for happiness. We have to try and win the title”.
Morocco became the first team to qualify for the 2023 African Cup of Nations after a 2-2 draw between South Africa and Liberia, the other two teams in their qualifying group.
The Atlas Lions will make their 19th official appearance in the pan-African football championship, which will be held in the Ivory Coast early next year.
The Moroccan team won each of their Group K matches against their South African and Liberian counterparts 2-1 and 2-0 respectively, sending them to the top of their qualifying group table.
Morocco will be vying for glory in the African football championship, following a successful run at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, where the Atlas Lions finished fourth – the first Arab and African team to do so.
The team’s remarkable stint at the World Cup impressed football fans and pundits alike, who hailed a number of players and coach Walid Regragui as world-class stars.
Morocco have routinely underperformed at the African tournament however, and have only won the competition once, in 1976.
In a post-World Cup interview with Moroccan media, Regragui said: “In a year, we have a continental competition, we want to represent Morocco as high as possible. We know that football has no memory, so we will have to move forward”.
“We want to maintain the same level and progress to the best. That’s why this winning mindset must be maintained,” he added.
Regragui believed they have what it takes to be champions of the continent but said they must at least reach the semi-final or else he will resign.
“We at least have to be in the semi-final of the next AFCON (2024), if we don’t make it to the last 4, I will leave the team”, he said.
Specific international teams – and specific types of international teams – tend to have more success at big tournaments like the African Cup of Nations than others.
So let’s take a look at what makes a winner, shall we? Here’s kick442.com’s guide to winning the Men’s African Cup of Nations.
Shed the white supremacist mentality
Aliou Cisse has always taken a stand in favour of local coaches for African national teams, pointing to his own example, as well as that of Regragui, to prove that foreign tacticians are not necessary for success.
“African coaches should be given the respect they deserve,” said Cisse. “They should understand that they are fighting for legitimacy in the African continent. They should start believing that they are capable of winning and when I say winning, I mean winning big.”
Goals win games but defense wins championships
Traditionally, finishing in the top five for goals conceded per game among the 24 participants is a huge boon to your nation’s AFCON chances. In the last two editions, the finalists had the least goals conceded. Senegal and Egypt conceded just two in 2021, meanwhile Algeria and Senegal conceded same in 2019. AFCON 2021 winner Senegal scored nine to Egypt’s four while AFCON 2019 winner Algeria scored thirteen to Senegal’s eight.
This isn’t entirely unexpected. We see that with new coaches at almost any level, it’s quicker to get your team up to speed on your defensive identity than it is to get them ready in any other phase. You really don’t have the time to coach more complex attacking systems over sporadic 10-day national team camps.
The lesson? A good defense can go a long way at the AFCON.
How valuable is a striker, anyways?
We often think of strikers as the players who win big international games. But do strikers really matter as much as we think they do?
In AFCON 1988, we had Roger Milla. In AFCON 2000 we had Patrick Mboma. But the last seven editions have been won with teams playing as a collective unit rather than depending on the exploits of a single player.
So maybe strikers aren’t the most important part of the team.
But there just might be a key position if we look back towards the goal.
Goalkeepers win you games folks!
Yellows, Reds, and the power of the referees
With the introduction of VAR, we’ve seen a few significant changes to the international game.
The last three winners of the last three editions have topped the charts in terms of yellow cards. Cameroon had 13 in 2017, Algeria had 14 in 2019, and Senegal had 13 in 2021. But the most important thing is that they all avoided red cards in the knockout stages. If you want to boost your chances of winning a trophy, you have to keep your players on the field.
Set pieces, set pieces, set pieces
There are whole teams who build themselves around solid defending, decent transitions, and being good on set pieces. Take 2021 winners Senegal. And more recently, Morocco’s run at the World Cup semi-final.
Set pieces are the golden goose of international play and everyone is just now starting to realize it. If you want your country to go deep, nailing set pieces is pretty much a requirement.
The dreaded penalty shootout. It may seem like a lottery, but there is some data to think about here.
According to Apesteguia and Palacios-Huerta, considering some 270 shootouts across the major continental tournaments, and major club tournaments, shooting first in the shootout results in a win 60.5% of the time. That’s a significant result!
Apesteguia and Palacios-Huerta asked players, if you win the toss, where do you want your team to shoot? A whopping 96% said their preference is to shoot first. When asked why, the overwhelming majority answered with some variation of “to put the pressure on”.
Veterans tend to score at higher rates than young players (77.13% for 33-year-olds, 74.55% for 18-year-olds, according to InStat).
Egypt was able to beat Cameroon in the semi-final shootout by doing its homework on such a valuable statistic. Cameroon won in the third place playoff while Senegal won the final.
Coaches, do your homework, guys!
Morocco continues to assert itself as one of the best teams in the world. After the Brazil game, Walid Regragui showed his joy and shows great ambitions for the next African Cup of Nations in 2023.
“The next AFCON? Of course we are favourites but we know Africa and it’s difficult.“
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