Morocco boss praises ‘crazy’ Hakim Ziyech and explains Bono’s late no-show
Morocco boss Walid Regragui has praised Hakim Ziyech’s Man-of-the-Match performance against Belgium on Sunday and explained goalkeeper Bono’s curious disappearance just before kick-off.
The African side struck twice late on through Abdelhamid Sabiri and Zakaria Aboukhlal to pull off one of the shocks of the World Cup so far, with Belgium having been ranked number two in the world according to FIFA’s rankings.
Although he did not get on the scoresheet, Chelsea winger Ziyech was a livewire throughout the match, having a goal disallowed for offside in the first half before setting up Aboukhlal’s late strike with a lovely dribble and cross.
Ziyech had fallen out with previous Morocco boss Vahid Halilhodzic and been ostracised from the team, but he returned to the fold under Regragui and has fully vindicated his position in the side according to his manager.
‘You know this guy, he is incredible,’ said Regragui at his post-match press conference.
‘The spirit, when he came back into the national team, it came back. What a lot of people say about him is that he’s a crazy guy, a difficult guy to manage, he can’t help the team.
‘But for me what I see is that when you give him love and confidence, he can die for you. And that is what I give him.
‘And he returned to me my confidence and the confidence of the fans of Morocco, because a lot of fans of Morocco wanted Hakim to come back into the team and he knew that.
‘But he’s a key player, the same with Sofiane [Boufal], and when you have these players on the field – the same with Achraf [Hakimi] and [Noussair] Mazraoui – it’s a different team, full of big players, playing in big teams in Europe.
‘And you see he [Ziyech] is a different player with the national team. He’s our leader. The role of the coach is to give him confidence, the same with the staff.’
One big player who was not on the field against Belgium was goalkeeper Yassine ‘Bono’ Bounou, who walked out with the team, sung the national anthem and then disappeared down the tunnel before kick-off.
It took BBC’s commentators 38 minutes to notice, but the Sevilla shot-stopper was replaced in the starting line-up at the very last minute with Munir Mohamedi coming in instead.
Explaining what happened with Bono, Regragui told beIN Sports: ‘He took a whack against Croatia, he was unsteady.
‘We tried until the last moment but after the warm-up, just before the match, he did not feel good and he had the honesty to give way to someone else. If you want to be in my squad you have to be 100% and Yassine understood that and gave up his place to Munir, who had a great game.’
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