After finishing in fourth place in Qatar, Morocco’s coach Walid Regragui predicted that an African team would win the World Cup over the next “15 to 20 years.”
The Atlas Lions, the first African team to reach the World Cup semifinals, lost the third-place play-off on Saturday by a score of 2-1 to 2018 runners-up Croatia, but they still managed to grab the imagination of fans in Qatar.
The number of teams competing in the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Canada, and Mexico will increase from 32 to 48, with Africa receiving at least nine more berths than it does now.
“With nine participants, we’re going to learn. In 15, 20 years, I’m sure an African team will win the World Cup because we’ll have learned,” said Regragui.
“We have a stage to get past. We need to build on that with hard work and desire. This DNA is not just being built for Morocco, but for the continent.”
The North African team advanced to the quarterfinals after finishing first in a group with third-place finishers Croatia and Belgium at the 2018 World Cup.
France eliminated them in the semifinals, but coach Regragui has challenged his team to redeem themselves by winning the Africa Cup of Nations in 2019.
“If you want to go down in history, then you’re going to have to win the Africa Cup of Nations,” Regragui told his team in the locker room.
“We need to dominate our continent.”
Morocco has only won the African Cup of Nations once, in 1976, but their World Cup performance showed that they are on the rise under new coach Regragui, who took over in August.
“Tomorrow morning, we’ll take stock, and all realise we’ve pulled off a fantastic achievement here. We’ve earned a great deal of experience in a short space of time,” Regragui added.
“We’ve gone further than expected, but it’s not enough. It needs to set an example for the future. I hope that everybody (in Africa) will learn from the experience.
“We’ve got a great future ahead of us, and we’ll keep moving forward.
“Of course, we aim to win the World Cup one day. There will be more pressure on us going forward, and hopefully, more African teams will follow our example.
“We’ve shown we can go toe to toe with top teams. Very small details determine these games.”