Morocco must play with guts and heart at World Cup - Hadji

Comments()
Getty
The African nation have been drawn in a tough group in Russia but their assistant coach has fired a battle cry ahead of their opening game

Mustapha Hadji believes Morocco must play with ‘guts and heart’ if they are to enjoy a successful World Cup in Russia.

Former Deportivo La Coruna and Aston Villa midfielder Hadji is assistant to head coach Herve Renard and helped Morocco to top their qualifying group ahead of the likes of Ivory Coast.

As a player, Hadji won the African Footballer of the Year award in 1998, and he also scored 13 goals in 63 appearances for Morocco.

He has described playing for Morocco as being ‘priceless’ and that representing your country should be considered the pinnacle of a footballer’s career.

“You can play all the Champions Leagues in the world, you can win as much as you want, you can do whatever you want in the world of football, the nation goes before everything,” Hadji told Goal .

“I say it to you in all honesty because it is something that I have lived, and I know it. Pfff… what we win with a nation, what we do by representing it, it’s priceless. Really. This is beyond what we can hope.

“That’s why, when you play for your country, you have to play with guts, with heart because that’s what people want to see. They do not want to see players who are just coming (here). They want to see players playing for their homeland. This is exceptional.

"It’s a privilege to play for a national team. We must not neglect it, we must always be there, always surpass ourselves because it is a nation. What you win with this team, people are indebted to you for life.”

Morocco, who are playing in their first World Cup since 1998, were given a tough group after being drawn to play Iran, 2016 European champions Portugal and 2010 World Cup winners Spain.

They open their World Cup campaign against Iran on Friday at the Saint Petersburg Stadium and Hadji has maintained that the team are only thinking about their opening game and not the tough tests that will follow later in the group.

Article continues below

He said: “We must already focus on Iran. It can be a trigger for the future. We often talk about European champions and former world champions, but against these teams the motivation will be natural because we will play against two of the biggest football nations.

“We must take it match by match. We know we have a very strong group. We really have to prepare for the game against Iran, and then we will see about Portugal and Spain because it will be something else.

“Without neglecting Iran so far, be careful. It is a team that will be very solid. It may even be more difficult than Portugal and Spain because they will play without pressure.”

Close