Before their final group stage match against Zambia on January 24th, the Lions of the Atlas have already secured a spot in the Round of 16. It marks an essential step for Coach Walid Regragui and his determined squad, who are eager to make history in the 34th edition of the tournament.
“We are on a mission, we didn’t come for a vacation. We want to make history,” emphasizes Walid Regragui. Since the start of the CAN, Morocco has displayed confidence and embraced its favorite status following the surprise exit in the 2022 World Cup semi-finals.
The Lions of the Atlas, currently residing in a seaside hotel in San Pedro, maintain a low profile. To the point where Moroccan journalists, though politely, express their desire for more communication from the players after matches. Captain Romain Saïss did share a few words in the interview zone after the draw against DR Congo.
Maintaining Focus for Morocco
On January 23rd, the former Angers player reiterated the determination of the entire team, emphasizing that they won’t settle for anything less than a final victory. “We must not ease up in this last match against Zambia,” he says. “We need to give our all to finish at the top of the group. It’s true; we were lacking in the second half against DR Congo, giving them too much space. But no one cheated; everyone put in the effort. We need to be honest, in challenging matches with the heat, we need to be smarter.”
“It’s positive; we are qualified for the second round. In a competition where humility is crucial, we can’t win every match by three goals,” admits Walid Regragui. “But previously, Morocco often waited until the third day to qualify. There’s progress.”
Morocco is undoubtedly the best team on the continent
From Zambia’s perspective, facing the Lions of the Atlas is no mere formality as they aim to extend their stay on Ivorian soil. “Morocco is undoubtedly the best team on the continent, but we don’t give up on the idea of qualifying for the next round,” says Zambian coach Avram Grant. Despite having realistic expectations, the former Chelsea manager is impressed by what Regragui has achieved with Morocco.
“I am impressed by what Regragui has done with Morocco,” the Zambian coach notes. “This team has a strong history. Zambia hasn’t been to the CAN for a long time, so we are seeking a good performance. We know Morocco is stronger than us. The goalkeeper (Yassine Bounou) is fantastic, and the rest of the team as well. I don’t see any weak points in them. It will be an exciting match.”