World Cup semifinalists Morocco, who became the first Arab team to beat Brazil last month, should focus on winning the Africa Cup of Nations next year before dreaming of glory at the 2026 World Cup, winger Sofiane Boufal said.
Morocco was the surprise story at the World Cup in Qatar last year, beating Belgium, Spain and Portugal on the way to the semifinals prompting coach Walid Regragui to talk up his desire of winning the 2026 edition.
That dream became bigger after a 2-1 win over five-time world champions Brazil in a friendly match in Tangier last month.
Only European and South American teams have won the World Cup throughout history.
“We must set our priorities. First, we must win the Africa Cup of Nations. We know very well that it is a difficult and complicated competition, and then we will have plenty of time to think about the World Cup,” Boufal told Qatari’s AlKass Sports through a translator.
Morocco became the first team to qualify for the next Africa Cup of Nations, which will be held in Ivory Coast early next year, and will seek to erase its bad memories in the tournament, in which their solitary title win came in 1976.
“The Nations Cup is different from the World Cup and the circumstances were not in our favour in the past, so we must have a stronger mentality,” added the 29 year-old who plays for Qatari side Al-Rayyan.
“In the World Cup, everything is great, regarding to training and stadiums, but it is very different in Africa. We must be realistic and prepare well for the tournament, which will not be easy at all.”
Boufal scored in the win over Brazil and said the team was still riding high from their World Cup exploits.
“The secret of our continued brilliance is that we continued what we did in the World Cup. We have a strong defence, an organised attack, talented players and we can make the difference at any time,” he said.
“The Brazil match was a celebration for us hosting the (then) number one in FIFA rankings and it was amazing to score against them in a great atmosphere at home. Now we must not relax and continue with the same pace to return to Morocco with the African Cup of Nations title.”
In the latest FIFA world rankings, Brazil dropped to third place behind Argentina and France, while Morocco is ranked 11th.
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