Morocco out to learn from their World Cup woe

Herve Renard is refusing to say whether he will stay on as Morocco boss.
Updated 26 June 2018
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Morocco out to learn from their World Cup woe

  • Morocco may be out of the tournament but they won a lot of fans with their display against Spain.
  • Coach Renard certain side can learn from their time in Russia.

MOSCOW: Moroccan coach Herve Renard has promised that the team will learn the lessons from the their World Cup heartache and return stronger in the future.
The Atlas Lions may have exited the tournament without a win, but they collected plenty of plaudits after narrow 1-0 defeats against Iran and Uruguay and a 2-2 draw with Spain.
Morocco finished bottom of Group B with Spain and Portugal going through with five points each, and Iran taking third with four points.
But while the table will not make happy viewing for Moroccan fans, their match against Spain once again proved they belong at the top table. It was by far their best performance and and a match they were very unlucky not to win, only a late Iago Aspas goal getting the 2010 world champions on level terms in the last minute.
That ending on a high has left the Atlas Lions hopeful that the best is yet to come.
“It has been an exceptional experience,” Revard said.
“I came here to learn and we have learnt a great deal in the three matches. We have learnt how to play at a high level.”
Taking in some of the top teams in the world has shown Morocco what is needed to compete at the highest level according to Revard.
“In Africa we seldom have the ball possession like Spain have and we had to adapt and adjust to protect the central midfield,” he said.
“These lessons are important even when you see it on television but when you have to take on a team with players like (Andres) Iniesta then you can see how they can give us difficulties between 20 and 40 minutes and we had to correct this and these kinds of lessons are fantastic for a coach.”
Overall, the French coach was left to lament that his team did not quite manage to get the points they deserved in their first World Cup appearance in 1998.
“We should have had a draw in the opening game but were caught in the last minute. If we get a point there then things could have been very different. We perhaps lacked experience.”
 In the end being placed in what was perhaps the toughest group in the entire tournament was a little too much for Morocco. Portugal are the defending European champions with Spain traditional European powerhouses.
 “We took on two of the very best teams in the world and we represented Morocco,” Renard added. “It was a magical moment. We would have loved to have got to the next round. “We can be proud of what we have done and proud of the team. Today was fantastic to hear the Moroccan anthem in Russia which is far away. This is something quite moving and will be forever in our memories.” 
 According to the coach, who would not be drawn as to whether he would stay with the team, there is still much for Morocco to learn from the World Cup even now they are heading home.
“We have to savour the moment of being here and what we did and we will think of the future later. For now, we have to keep watching the high-level teams that are still in the competition and keep learning as much as much as we can.”


Al-Ittihad banking on experience of Saad Al-Shehri to replace Ramon Diaz

Updated 28 min 37 sec ago
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Al-Ittihad banking on experience of Saad Al-Shehri to replace Ramon Diaz

  • Al-Shehri led the young Green Falcons to the last eight of the 2018 Asian Games
  • Diaz was fired on Saturday after two defeats in the opening two games of the Saudi Pro League season

JEDDAH: Al-Ittihad are not hanging around in replacing manager Ramon Diaz as the Jeddah club are set to appoint Saudi Arabia U-23 coach Saad Al-Shehri as their new boss.
Diaz was fired on Saturday after two defeats in the opening two games of the Saudi Pro League season.
The 3-0 defeat at home to Al-Qadisiyah at the weekend sent the eight-time champions to the bottom of the table and resulted in the instant dismissal of the Argentine who was handed the reins only in May.
Al-Shehri has a growing reputation. Without any over-age players, the 38-year-old led the young Green Falcons to the last eight of the 2018 Asian Games which included a famous 4-3 win over a strong Chinese team in the second round and then a narrow 2-1 loss to finalists Japan.
“The question for the club now is one of stability in the coaching side,” an Al-Ittihad official told Arab News. “There have been a lot of changes and it is time to grow the club and Al-Shehri could be the man to settle everything down. He deserves a chance.”
Al-Shehri is regarded as the opposite of Diaz. The 59-year-old South American had a stellar playing CV and a long coaching resume that stretches back to 1995 while the Saudi Arabian saw his promising career cut short through injury.
So far, the former physical education teacher has been heavily involved in youth football, winning titles at that level with Al-Ittifaq and Al-Nassr before leading the U-20 team to the knockout stage of the 2017 World Cup and a hard-fought 1-0 loss to Uruguay.
“He is young but has had plenty of time to prepare for a coaching career after he finished as a player in his early twenties,” added the official. “His football is more positive as we saw at the Asian Games and the players enjoyed that experience and he also knows the local players really well. Al-Ittihad want to play more aggressive football than under Diaz. He wasn’t here a long time but the style of play did not fit the expectations of fans.”
The club are keen to get the deal done as soon as possible, though Al-Shehri is holding out for a contract until the end of the season. In the meantime, Bandar Basirah will take temporary charge of the team for the crucial trip to Al-Taawon on Thursday, a team that has drawn its first two games of the season.
“I am proud to be part of this big club and I thank the management here for having faith in me,” Basirah said. “I don’t have a magic wand to wave to change everything overnight but we will do everything we can to make the fans happy. We don’t have much time to prepare for the next game but I trust the players and we are all focused on getting the victory and get our season really started.”
At the very least, there is a desire to play more entertaining football. “We know that we haven’t been at our best this season so far but we have studied the opponent well and are ready to get the three points.”
Assuming that Al-Shehri comes in sooner rather than later, there will be funds available to strengthen the team. President Nawaf Al-Muqairn has promised fans that better times are around the corner.
“We will give our players a chance in the coming weeks but when the time comes, we will not hesitate to strengthen the team with local and foreign talent.”