Morocco proud of its Atlas Lions despite Portugal defeat, World Cup exit

Morocco's midfielder Faycal Fajr walks off the pitch following the Russia 2018 World Cup Group B football match between Portugal and Morocco. (AFP/Mladen ANTONOV)
Updated 20 June 2018
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Morocco proud of its Atlas Lions despite Portugal defeat, World Cup exit

  • While Morocco were on top for long periods, the Atlas Lions could not get the goal they deserved and needed
  • Ronaldo, named man of the match by FIFA after his fourth goal of the World Cup so far, recognized that it was a tough game

MOSCOW: Morocco became the first team to exit the 2018 World Cup on Wednesday after a 1-0 loss to Portugal in Moscow left coach Herve Renard to reflect on what could have been had he been able to call up Cristiano Ronaldo.
Just five days after his hat-trick against Spain in a 3-3 thriller, the Real Madrid star was once again the difference-maker and scored the only goal of the game with a fourth-minute header.
While Morocco were on top for long periods, the Atlas Lions could not get the goal they deserved and needed. It was a similar outcome to the opening 1-0 loss to Iran when the North Africans had chances to win, but ended with nothing.
It leaves Morocco with zero points from two games in Group B and unable to finish in the top two with a final game against Spain on Monday now just a matter of pride.
“This is what happens in football,” Renard said. “In the penalty area at crucial times, the most gifted players are the ones who make all the difference. It is a lot easier to play with a player who can score from a goal opportunity. We have high quality players and should have been more effective as we had lots of chances.”
Ronaldo, named man of the match by FIFA after his fourth goal of the World Cup so far, recognized that it was a tough game for the European champions who now have four points from two games.
“I am very happy to score, but it is more important to win the game and get the points,” Ronaldo said. “We know if we lost we could be out. We knew they would be trying very hard and were very strong. It was a really tough game for us, but I managed to get the goal, and it was beautiful.”
Morocco were unhappy with the goal, with Renard asking reporters to look at the corner from which Portugal scored, hinting that Portuguese defender Pepe had fouled one of his players. “Have a good look at the corner kick and what the number three is doing and write the truth. I can’t say too much or I will be punished.”
As it is, however, Morocco are out regardless of what happens against Spain on June 25. Renard has, however, insisted that the team will leave Russia with their heads held high.
“I am not disappointed with the performance,” the French coach said. “I am very proud of my players, very proud of the country and proud of the staff. The whole Moroccan people are proud, even very proud, of this team. It felt like Casablanca in here and that is something you can never take away from the players.”
The well-travelled 49-year-old reflected on Morocco’s journey since he took the job in February 2016. “Then we were ranked 81 and now we are 41 and came to the World Cup for the first time in 20 years. Here we have shown we can play football, we do play football.”
Portuguese coach Fernando Santos paid tribute to the North Africans.
“They played well and challenged us. It is maybe an unfair result for them, that is football. If you score, you can win. I am not happy with the way we played, but we played against a good team.”


Saudi Arabia club Al-Nassr sign Peru World Cup defender

Updated 21 July 2018
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Saudi Arabia club Al-Nassr sign Peru World Cup defender

  • Christian Ramos has signed a contract until 2022
  • He becomes second Peru star to join a Saudi Pro League team this week

LONDON: Al-Nassr have followed up the headline-grabbing signing of Nordin Amrabat by landing Peru international defender Christian Ramos.
Jose Daniel Carreno’s side finished third last season and they signalled their ambition to challenge the top two by recruiting Amrabat, the Moroccan World Cup winger, from Premier League club Watford this week.
Not content with that, they have recruited another World Cup player by luring Ramos, 29, to the Kingdom.
He played every minute of Peru’s World Cup group games against France, Denmark and Australia and has won 69 caps for his country.
The 6ft central defender has played all over South America during an 11-year career and has now decided the time is right to switch continents and play in the Middle East.
He becomes the second Peruvian to move to the Saudi Pro League this week, following on from Andre Carrillo’s loan move to Al-Hilal.