FIFA World Cup: We want to take a medal home: Morocco’s Regragui ahead of third-place playoff

Morocco coach Walid Regragui shot down the idea that he needs to motivate his players for the Croatia match with the prospect of winning the first-ever medal at the football showpiece event providing enough reasons for the Atlas Lions to roar at Saturday’s encounter at Khalifa International Stadium.

The 47-year-old tactician admitted that the FIFA World Cup third-place play-off is the “worst game” to play in for but wants his side to become the first African nation to medal in the Finals, having already become the first African nation to reach a World Cup semi-final.

“I don’t really need to motivate my team, we are at the World Cup representing Morocco. We even want to win friendlies so the objective is to get that third place, we want to improve our FIFA ranking. If we finish third in a World Cup, we will really hike it up,” Regragui said at the pre-match press conference.

“Finishing third is not the same as finishing fourth and we want to take a medal home with us. After the game, we will think about what the future has in store. We will have a completely different status following the World Cup. We want to show what we are made of and also pave the way for the future of Moroccan football.”

Having beaten Belgium, Spain and Portugal to reach the semis, Morocco lost 2-0 to reigning champions France as their record-breaking run came to an end in Qatar.

“We would like things to have gone differently and played in the final but there is another game to play, we would like to be on the podium,” he said.

“We know that Croatia also want to finish in third place, we played them in our opening game so that will be nice. It will be no walk in the park physically, they have had one more rest day.

“We need to clear our heads a little, but when you come out of a semifinal, the first time we’ve ever been in one, emotions were running high and it was quite difficult. However, my players still have that appetite they want to finish well and they know they still have one game to play with all to play for.

Regragui confirmed skipper Romain Saiss will not be fit for the final, having risked his captain at just “60-70 per cent” in the semifinal, a decision which backfired when he limped off after just 20 minutes.

“We lost our captain Romain Saiss during the game, we took a risk but it was a risk worth taking,” added Regragui.

“We wanted to go out to battle with him leading the battalion. We have another couple of injured players but we will see how it goes.

“We really, really pushed our players to their limits but they still want to go out tomorrow and play again but we are going to be taking risks again. Romain Saiss is out – he has been ruled out from this third-place game,” he added.

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