Morocco coach Walid Regragui said he believes an African team will win the World Cup in the next “15 to 20 years” after his team finished fourth in Qatar.
The Atlas Lions, who became the first African World Cup semi-finalists in history, lost Saturday’s third place playoff 2-1 against 2018 runners-up Croatia but captured the imagination in Qatar.
The next World Cup in 2026, held across the USA, Canada and Mexico, will be expanded to 48 teams and Africa will have at least nine slots – up from five at present.
“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.”
Morocco finished top of a group including Croatia and Belgium, who came third at the 2018 World Cup, before knocking out Spain and Portugal to reach the last four.
Their run was ended in the semi-finals by defending champions France, but Regragui has urged his players to back up their historic display by winning next year’s Africa Cup of Nations.
“I said to the players in the changing room, if you want to go down in history then you’re going to have to win the Africa Cup of Nations,” said Regragui.
“We need to dominate our continent.”
Regragui says that they will now turn their focus on winning the Africa Cup of Nations. The next edition is in 2024.
“I told my players that we cannot be kings of the world before being kings of our continent. We’re now going to work on winning the AFCON.”
Morocco have been crowned African champions just once, in 1976, but their performances at the World Cup demonstrated they are a team on the rise under Regragui, who was only appointed 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,” said Regragui.
“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 have the objective of winning the World Cup one day. There’s going to be more pressure on us going forward and hopefully there will be more African teams following our example.
“We’ve shown we can go toe to toe with top teams. Really very small details determine these games.” -AFP