CAF expects Morocco’s semifinal run to ‘galvanise’ African football
Morocco’s success in becoming the first African team to reach the World Cup semi-finals can ‘galvanise’ the continent, according to one of African football’s top officials.
The Atlas Lions beat Portugal 1-0 on Saturday to make history, and will now face defending champions France in the last four in Qatar on Wednesday.
However, Veron Mosengo-Omba, the general secretary of Confederation of African Football (CAF), says more investment and resources must be made available for other countries to match the achievement by the North Africans.
“Morocco show it is possible for Africa to shortly have more teams in the World Cup semifinal, and even in the final,” Mosengo-Omba told BBC Sport Africa.
“The Moroccan result will, for sure, galvanise the entire continent. But galvanising and dreaming is not enough to grow (the game) and make African football more competitive to win the World Cup.
“It needs concrete actions and long-term efforts.”
Although Morocco’s squad contains several foreign-born players, a large part of their success stems from the vast support – both emotional and financial – the team has received from the country’s football federation (FMRF).
Almost uniquely in Africa, the FMRF is prepared to invest huge sums in the country’s national teams, with the $20m (£16.29m) devoted to women’s football over a four-year period, a clear example of its aims.
That support helped Morocco reach both its first Women’s Africa Cup of Nations final and qualify for the Women’s World Cup earlier this year. The men’s team have been equally helped by the impressive facilities at the Mohamed VI training complex, which is unrivalled on the continent.
“Morocco is an example to follow,” Mosengo-Omba added.
“The government and the federation work hand-in-hand on football development of infrastructures and training programmes.
“Besides, and in addition, CAF and its member associations also need to continue progressing on good governance practices to implement good intentions.”
Morocco coach Walid Regragui has talked about the importance of having ambition and dreaming of lifting the World Cup, while Senegal captain Kalidou Koulibaly said before the finals that African countries should set higher goals.
Before Qatar, only Cameroun (1990), Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010) had reached the last eight at the tournament, but Morocco’s victory at the Al Thumama Stadium has rewritten the history books.
Regragui, who took charge in August, said self-belief has been an important factor in their run to the last four, having emerged from a group, which contained Belgium, ranked second in the world, and 2018 runners-up Croatia before seeing off 2010 World Cup winners Spain in the last 16.
“Everyone thought we were going to be knocked out in the first round,” the 47-year-old said.
“What I was telling the players was that we have elite players – (Hakim) Ziyech for Chelsea, (Noussair) Mazraoui for Bayern, (Achraf) Hakimi for Paris St-Germain.
“We have players in the top clubs and we have a team that can win games at the World Cup and that’s what I tried to get through to my players. We need to be confident and we need to go out there and give everything and have no regrets – and they believed me.
“You don’t go to the World Cup to play only three games. The message passed to my team, my country and now the continent.”
Meanwhile, Regragui says he was overcome by emotion after the victory over Portugal as the weight of the country’s achievement hit him.
“I think it’s the first time that I’ve cried at a match,” said the former defender, who won 45 caps for Morocco.
“I tried to control my emotions because I need to show an example to my players and show that I’m mentally strong.
“I’m the coach after all, but sometimes it is just too much for you when you get to the semi-finals of the World Cup. Sometimes the emotions just pour out.
“I’d be lying if I said that I really thought what we were going to get to the semifinal. I just couldn’t take control of the tears.”
• Culled from BBC