"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," says Walid Regragui whose Atlas Lions became the first African World Cup semi-finalists in history.
Morocco coach Walid Regragui has 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 play-off 2-1 against 2018 runners-up Croatia but captured the imagination in Qatar.
"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's run to the semi-finals was the unlikeliest story of the tournament, topping a group that contained Croatia and second-ranked Belgium.
The team then beat Spain and Portugal in the knockout stages.
Hakim Ziyech and Achraf Hakimi became the first Moroccan players to participate in 10 World Cup matches.
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.
READ MORE: Croatia clinch bronze, Morocco win hearts in World Cup playoff
Morocco 🇲🇦 coach Walid Regragui says that they will now turn their focus on winning the Africa Cup of Nations. The next edition is in 2024.— Usher Komugisha (@UsherKomugisha) December 17, 2022
“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.” pic.twitter.com/ELnagEsuYi
'We need to dominate Africa'
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."
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."
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