Morocco's youth team has already written its name into the record books at the FIFA World Youth Championship Netherlands 2005. Now, having reached the semi-finals of an international competition for the first time in their history, the young Moroccans are keen to taste further success. Although the pressure is now off the North African side, for whom any further wins would be a bonus in an already successful tournament, Morocco are desperate to cause further upsets and give their legions of fans even more reason to celebrate.
Prior to his side's final training session at the Parkstad-Limburg stadium in Kerkrade early on Monday evening, Morocco's coach Jamal Fathi delivered an inspiring address to his players on the subject of their upcoming semi-final against Nigeria. Speaking first in Arabic, then in French, he urged his players to maintain their discipline and ensure optimum concentration in preparation for the clash with the West African side. With a few words of praise for the quality of his squad, he then sent his protégés onto the immaculate pitch for their last training session prior to their big game.
After warming up, playing a relaxed training game and rehearsing set-pieces, Fathi left nothing to chance and insisted on penalty practice. Even goalkeeper Mohammed Bourkadi, the hero in the quarter-final against Italy when he saved two penalties in the penalty shoot-out after saving one during normal time, was not spared. Nigeria's encounter with hosts the Netherlands was still fresh in the minds of the Moroccans, a game in which the goalkeepers had to step up to the penalty spot before the Flying Eagles eventually won through.
Ready for Nigeria
After the training session, Fathi, who won a Moroccan league winner's medal with Raja Casablanca in his time as a player, had a few final words for the gathered media pack. "We are here to reach the final. We are ready for the clash with Nigeria and we will play to our strengths," Fathi told FIFA.com.
According to the Moroccan coach, there is no universal recipe for success. "There is no magic key to winning. The players simply have to approach this game with the will to win, courage and composure," he added. Fathi does not place any real significance on the fact that Morocco have to play a country from their own continent in the last four: "At this stage of the competition, things are very simple. We are in the semi-final and we will do all we can to win this game."
In conclusion, the coach once again emphasised the importance of this match for the Moroccan people and football within the country: "This is a great opportunity for Moroccan football and its future."