Walid Regragui was given the nickname "Moroccan Guardiola" in Morocco due to his brilliant tactical acumen.
Walid Regragui sensationally led Morocco to the semi-finals of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The Atlas Lions made history by becoming the first ever African and Arab nation to reach that stage.
They eventually succumbed to France in the last four, but earned plenty of plaudits.
More remarkable was the fact that their manager was appointed less than 3 months ahead of the World Cup.
Here, FootballOrbit brings you all you need to know about Morocco’s head coach.
Walid Regragui was born on the 23rd of September 1975 in Corbeil-Essonnes, France.
He played as a right-back in his playing career, which lasted from 1998 to 2009.
He played for French and Spanish clubs including: Racing Paris, Toulouse, AC Ajaccio, Grenoble, Racing Santander, Dijon — as well as Moroccan club, Moghreb Tétouan.
He won the Ligue 2 with Ajaccio in 2002.
Additionally, Regragui played 45 times for Morocco between 2001 and 2009 — finishing as AFCON runner-up in 2004.
Morocco did not qualify for the FIFA World Cup during his playing days.
Walid Regragui’s coaching career
After retiring as player in 2009, Regragui started working as an assistant coach for Morocco’s national team in 2012.
But just a year later, Rachid Taoussi was fired as head coach and Regragui’s contract was also terminated.
In May 2014, he was appointed as manager of Moroccan first division side, Fath Union Sport (FUS), ahead of the 2014/15 season.
The next season (2015/16), FUS won the Moroccan league title for the first time ever — having been runners-up 5 times before!
Walid also won the Moroccan Throne Cup with the club.
After more than 5 years with FUS, he left the club by mutual consent in January 2020.
Thereafter, he joined Qatari club, Al-Duhail. The club lost ONLY ONE match during his tenure and won the league title!
On the 10th of August 2021, Walid Regragui was appointed as the head coach of Moroccan giants, Wydad Casablanca.
He led Wydad to win the CAF Champions League title — beating Egyptian giants, Al Ahly, in the final.
The victory was made all the more impressive by the fact that Al Ahly were the two-time defending champions of the competition!!
In doing so, Regragui became only the second Moroccan manager to win the CAF Champions League.
Also, Wydad won the 2021/22 league title.
Walid Regragui was named as the Best Coach in Morocco twice: 2016 and 2022.
His impressive feats drew the attention of the Moroccan Football Federation.
On the 31st of August 2022, Walid Regragui was appointed as the new manager for the Morocco national football team, after the dismissal of former head coach Vahid Halilhodžić.
Halilhodžić’s tenure had seen some of Morocco’s best players vowing to never play for the country again.
Moreso, the 2022 FIFA World Cup was just less than three months away.
Walid’s appointment was historic for Africa as it meant that for the first time in World Cup history, all African teams would have native coaches.
Unhappy with Regragui’s appointment, some critics derisively nicknamed him “avocado head” — mocking his bald head.
But Walid was undeterred by the negative reactions to his appointments and became determined to silence his critics.
His first game as Morocco manager came in September 2022 in a friendly match against Madagascar — and ended in a 1-0 victory.
2022 FIFA World Cup fairytale
While many Arab coaches have taken their national teams to the FIFA World Cup, Walid Regragui was the second Moroccan to take charge of the Atlas Lions at the tournament.
The first was Abdellah Blinda at USA 1994, the country’s third World Cup.
Despite his significant experience on the international stage, Blinda could not prevent his side from losing all three of their group matches: a 1-0 defeat to Belgium was followed by 2-1 losses to Saudi Arabia and Netherlands.
Hervé Renard helped Morocco qualify for the 2018 World Cup — their first in 20 years. They won the hearts of many with their courageous football in Russia, but failed to make it out their group.
At the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Regragui led Morocco to the knockout stage for the first time since 1986.
They topped their group that included Belgium, Canada and 2018 runners-up, Croatia.
Furthermore, the Atlas Lions made history by becoming the first ever African (and Arab) country to reach the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup!!!
Impressively, they eliminated Spain and Portugal in the round of 16 and quarterfinals respectively.
However, they lost 2-0 to defending champions France in the last four.
Regragui’s men won many admirers with their valiant displays.
The 47-year-old manager was widely praised for his tactical setup and leadership of the team.
Walid Regragui’s coaching style
Walid Regragui was nicknamed “The Moroccan Guardiola” in his country due to his brilliant tactical acumen.
His teams are always rock-solid defensively and dangerous when attacking on the counter.
His emphasis on a strong defence convinced Morocco to appoint him because the team had conceded 12 goals in their last 10 games under Halilhodžić.
Prior to their defeat to France in the semi-final, Morocco conceded just one goal from open play in Qatar — and it was an own goal.
Moreover, Walid Regragui’s counter-attacking system saw him bring the best out of the Moroccan attackers — utilising their pace, technique and directness.
Players like Hakim Ziyech, Sofyan Amrabat, Sofiane Boufal, and Achraf Hakimi got Morocco regularly moving quickly from one end of the pitch to the other through quick passes.
Also, Regragui’s man management skills united the squad (full of egos). This got the whole country behind the team, as evidenced by grand celebrations in the streets of Morocco after every game.
One of Regragui’s finest achievements was re-integrating Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech and Bayern Munich’s Noussair Mazraoui back into the side following international exiles for both players. They were key to Morocco’s fairytale run in Qatar.
The Chelsea winger had fallen out with previous coach Halilhodžić, who accused him of a bad attitude and feigning injury.
Consequently, Ziyech missed the 2021 AFCON and the World Cup qualifiers.
But recalling him was a masterstroke from Walid Regragui as Ziyech was Morocco’s best player at the World Cup.