Morocco have become the first African and Arab team to qualify for a World Cup semi-final and they will take on France later today in the hope of making yet more history and becoming the first from their continent to reach a World Cup final.
They shocked the footballing world by beating Spain in the last 16 on penalties and Portugal in the quarter-finals on Saturday, after Yousseff En-Nesyri’s header late in the second half secured their pathway to the Al Bayt Stadium this weekend. Their feat against Portugal became even more impressive after Walid Cheddira was sent off in the 90+3rd minute and Morocco were forced to play the last 10 minutes with 10 men.
Walid Regragui has only been Morocco’s head coach since August and in that time, not only has he led the side to a history-making semi-final fixture, he has also, himself, become the first African and Arab manager to reach this stage as well.
Here is all you need to know about Morocco’s head coach, Walid Regragui...
Who is Walid Regragui?
Born Hoalid Regragui, the Moroccan manager was born in Corbeil-Essones, a suburb of Paris, in 1975 and signed his first professional contract as a right-back with Racing Paris in 1998. He was only there for one season before moving further south to Toulouse where he stayed for two seasons.
In 2001, Regragui signed with AC Ajaccio where he made 72 league appearances and scored three goals, helping them to win the Division 2 title at the end of the 2001/02 season, before he moved to the Spanish Leagues to play with Racing Santander. The right-back, however, soon moved back to France where he played for Dijon and Grenoble before finishing his playing career with the Moroccon team Mohreb Tetouan.
Regragui was a full international for Morocco and made 45 appearances for his country, reaching the Africa Cup of Nations final with the Atlas Lions in 2004.
Regragui, the manager
Following his retirement from the pitch, Regragui began his coaching career as an assistant of Morocco’s national team in September 2012. Two years later, he landed his first head coaching job with Fath Union Sport, a Moroccon team based in Rabat, and was there until January 2020 where he left the club by mutual consent.
He was then appointed head coach of Wydad AC in 2021 and led them to win their third CAF Champions League title, becoming only the second Moroccan manager to do so after Hussein Ammouta achieved the accolade with Wydad in 2017.
In August 2022, Regragui then teamed up with Morocco again and has won five of his eight games in charge so far, remaining unbeaten. Since his appointment, Morocco reached the knockout stage of the World Cup for the first time since 1986, become the fourth African nation and first Arab nation to qualify for the quarter-finals and become the first African and first Arab team to qualify for the semi-finals.
Speaking to BBC Sport Africa, the former Moroccan international Rachid Azzouzi has said of his compatriot, “The coach has managed to form this unit and that is his greatest achievement. Every player has respect for him and wants to carry out this plan - that is the reason they’re playing so well.”
When is France vs Morocco?
The second semi-final will take place later today, Wednesday 14 December 2022, at the Al Bayt Stadium and the fixture is scheduled to start at 7pm GMT. BBC One will broadcast the coverage with fans also being able to stream the action on BBC iPlayer.
The winner will face Argentina, who beat Croatia 3-0 in last night’s semi-final, in the Qatar World Cup 2022 final on Sunday 18 December at 3pm.