Football

Morocco manager backs Achraf Hakimi in battle with Kylian Mbappe


Morocco manager Walid Regragui has confessed he will leave right-back Achraf Hakimi to work out how to stop France forward Kylian Mbappe ahead of their World Cup semi-final.

The Paris Saint-Germain teammates will butt heads on Wednesday for a spot in the 2022 final, where they will face the winner of Tuesday’s encounter between Argentina and Croatia.

Stopping Mbappe has been a big focus for all coaches at this tournament, but Regragui is prepared to allow Hakimi to use his inside knowledge of the Frenchman to formulate his own plan to stop him.

“He knows Mbappe better than me, he trains with him every day,” said Regragui. “I’m sure he’s better placed than me to know Kylian. I’m not going to set up any tactical plan to counter Mbappe.

“Unfortunately, France has a lot of other good players, [Antoine] Griezmann between the lines, [Ousmane] Dembele is also the perfect complement to Mbappe on the other wing. Hakimi is one of the best in the world at his position too. They are both champions, both world class players.

“We shouldn’t be focusing on Kylian, but what we can do to cause problems for France. I have no doubt that Hakimi will be on top form to get the better of his friend.”

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Regragui, who was born in France, has challenged his players to continue to rewrite history with one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history against Les Bleus.

“We are confident and determined to rewrite the history books. We will have to be very strong in order to progress in the tournament even further,” he admitted. 2We are not the favourites, I know that.

“We are confident, not tired, we still want to go further in the tournament. Since the beginning of the tournament, people have said we are tired but you cannot be tired in the semi-final of a World Cup.

“I was born in France, I’m a dual national and that’s an honour, a pleasure. It’s an honour and pleasure to face France. I’m the Morocco coach and we’ll face the best team in the world tomorrow. The most important thing is to reach the final tomorrow.

“As a coach, it doesn’t really matter who we are playing, it doesn’t interest me. I am a football, coach, so I focus on the game. If it was England we were facing, it would be the same. As a coach, you want to test yourself as a team, that’s the message I send to my players.

“When we play for Morocco, we are Moroccan. It’s a football match and should be a football festival, and for all dual nationals it should be a football festival. If it’s Morocco or France who wins, I’m sure many dual nationals will be happy either way.”



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