The fourth place obtained by Morocco during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar made Walid Regragui, 48, one of the most popular personalities in the kingdom. But, almost a year and a half later, the star of the Atlas Lions coach has faded somewhat and some media and local supporters are now pleading for the former international (45 caps), although under contract until ‘in 2026, be removed from office.

Critics of Vahid Halilhodzic’s successor, appointed in August 2022, blame him in particular for the disappointing performance of the selection during the 2024 African Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast. Morocco, which has not won the competition since its first title obtained in 1976 in Ethiopia, was eliminated in the round of 16 by South Africa (0-2), although it was presented as the one of the favorites.

“Walid Regragui got himself into difficulty by committing to reaching the semi-finals,” recalls Réda Allali, the musician and founder of the group Hoba Hoba Spirit, which appears in several sports broadcasts. He is in the hot seat and waiting around the corner. »

After this failure, Fouzi Lekjâa, the president of the Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF), had nevertheless renewed his confidence in the technician with a view to the CAN 2025 that Morocco will organize, and the rest of the qualifications for the 2026 World Cup . But the last two performances of the Atlas Lions during the friendly matches played against Angola (1-0) and Mauritania (0-0), on March 22 and 26 in Agadir, reinforced the mistrust of a part of public opinion and the press.

Strained relations with the press

“The criticism is based on the style of play, considered too defensive, while the Moroccans believe that Morocco has never had such a good team, with players who play in the best European clubs, such as Achraf Hakimi (Paris-SG ), Brahim Diaz (Real Madrid), Noussair Mazraoui (Bayern Munich) or Sofyan Amrabat (Manchester United)”, explains sports consultant and journalist Nassim El Kerf.

Walid Regragui’s relations with part of the Moroccan press have also become strained. “Journalists criticize him for a certain arrogance and for not accepting criticism of the team’s play,” continues Nassim El Kerf. Within the federation, opinions are also divided.

“There are people who believe that we must give him time to continue his work and others who want his replacement quickly, because they think that Regragui will not be able to lead Morocco to the title in 2025,” summarizes a member of the body having requested anonymity. Even if he still officially supports the coach, Fouzi Lekjâa showed some signs of annoyance at the spectacle proposed during the meetings against Angola and Mauritania.

But in Morocco, Walid Regragui still has a lot of support, including among supporters and the press. His former teammate in the selection, Khalid Fouhami, now coach of CA Kénifra (Ligue 2), is in favor of technical stability and pleads for the coach to remain in his position.

“He had results at FUS Rabat, Wydad Casablanca and he led Morocco to fourth place in the World Cup. Walid is a good technician. Let him put a new system in place, he called up new players, it takes a little time. »

The return of Frenchman Hervé Renard?

Journalist Jalal Bouzrara is also campaigning for the retention of the coach, taking the example of Aliou Cissé in Senegal, “who has been there for years [2015] and who won the CAN in 2022. We need continuity. He’s the man for the job, he must stay. » Reda Allali believes that the coach “is best placed to reinvent this team”, while inviting him “not to cling to his position if he does not qualify Morocco for the World Cup”.

In Morocco, some do not hesitate to draw a parallel between Walid Regragui and Djamel Belmadi. The former coach of Algeria, African champion in 2019, was sacked in January after the elimination of his team in the first round of the CAN in Ivory Coast. Algeria had already experienced the same fate in 2022 in Cameroon and had failed to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar.

“Like Belmadi after the CAN, Regragui was praised to the skies after the World Cup and, since then, nothing more,” underlines a former member of Wydad Casablanca. He is under enormous pressure and is starting to alienate the supporters because of his results and press them with his communication bordering on arrogance. »

After a disappointing first quarter, the Atlas Lions coach knows he will be eagerly awaited during his team’s next two matches in June against Zambia and in Congo for the qualifications for the 2026 World Cup. And new poor performances will inevitably revive criticism from some of the supporters, some of whom are calling for the return of Frenchman Hervé Renard. The current coach of the French women’s team, under contract until August 31, had already managed the Atlas Lions from February 2016 to July 2019.