Moscow, June 20 (IANS) Morocco head coach Herve Renard heaped praise on his footballers after the team’s 0-1 defeat to Portugal here on Wednesday, a result that all but guarantees the African side’s World Cup elimination from the group stage.
The European champions went ahead through an early Cristiano Ronaldo header but Morocco dominated large periods of the match and had 16 shots on goal compared to Portugal’s 10, reported Xinhua news agency.
“I’m not disappointed. I’m very happy with the performance,” Renard told a news conference after the match. “I’m very proud, we all are. It might sound strange but that is the feeling in the group,” said Renard.
Wednesday’s result came after an Aziz Bouhaddouz own goal gifted Iran a 1-0 victory over Morocco in the teams’ opening group match.
A victory for Spain against Iran later on Wednesday would eliminate Morocco from the tournament, regardless of the result of the Africans’ clash with Spain on Monday.
Renard suggested that Ronaldo’s goal should have been disallowed because of a perceived foul by Portugal defender Pepe moments earlier.
“Have a look at the corner-kick when Ronaldo scored and look at what No. 3 (Pepe) did,” Renard said. “Do your own analysis and write the truth.
“A foul should have been seen. A corner kick should have been awarded. If I criticize referees I will be criticized or sanctioned. So the only thing that you should write is that we are very proud of the performance. We will finish with Spain and we hope to do that with flying colours.”
The Frenchman said the team had come a long way since he replaced Badou Zaki as national coach in February 2016.
“The one thing I’m sure of is that Moroccan people are very proud of their team,” he said. “Two years ago we started a new adventure. We were ranked 81st in the world and I think that now we are 41st. We qualified for a World Cup for the first time in more than 20 years. We showed that we can play football but it’s true that we haven’t been effective in the end (here).”
Renard bemoaned his team’s inability to convert chances into goals, both against Iran and Portugal.
“It’s a lot easier when you have a goalscorer,” he said. “But we have high quality players. We should have been more effective. Just like in the first game we had lots of scoring opportunities. That’s what happens in football. Those who know how to play in the penalty area and those who are most gifted make a difference.
“We didn’t score the goals we could have. But playing in this stadium. It felt like we were playing in Casablanca. Some people drove all the way to Moscow and I’m sure they are proud of the team.”