- Mourinho in awe of Morocco’s displays at the World Cup
- Roma coach impressed by the overall quality of the North Africans
- Ex-Chelsea manager also surprised by the output of midfielder Ounahi
WHAT HAPPENED? Morocco beat Mourinho’s home country Portugal 1-0 to qualify for a historic World Cup quarter-final on Saturday having put up a spirited display, leaving the former Chelsea and Manchester United manager impressed.
WHAT DID HE SAY? “When I saw the game [against Portugal] starting and the team without [Noussair] Mazraoui and [Nayef] Aguerd, I thought problems to Morocco but it was not a problem,” said Mourinho.
“When I saw [Romain] Saiss in the beginning of the second half, their captain their leader, the centre-back, a crucial position in that kind of match, when I saw him leave also injured, I thought big problems for them but it was not a problem.
“The coach organised the team very well, starting with 4-3-3, he was able to change during the game to 5-4-1. He saw the danger, he saw Portugal accumulating lots of players in finishing areas and he found a way to control the game.
“They have individuals, [Yassine] Bounou was an individual during the competition and in this game was the same, [Sofyan] Amrabat, I know him from Italian football, very good player but their No.8, the young boy that plays in France in Angers, Ounahi was absolutely incredible. So, they have players, a coach and an incredible spirit.”
THE BIGGER PICTURE: Morocco’s resilience and tenacity has seen them become a revelation at the tournament, reaching the semi-final after keeping Croatia, Belgium, Spain and Portugal at bay while conceding just once, an own goal against Canada.
While the Atlas Lions possess great quality, coach Walid Regragui has been lauded for being spot-on with his tactics which have made them hard to break down in all their matches.
Midfielder Ounahi has been one of their top performers and Mourinho is now the second coach to single him out for praise after former Spain coach Luis Enrique lauded him for making life difficult for his team in the Round of 16.
WHAT’S NEXT? Morocco have a date with France in Wednesday’s semi-final when they hope to continue their fairytale run by reaching the finals.