Gerets: We can get better
Two games and zero points has left Morocco heading home after their fate was sealed in an extraordinary Group C clash against Gabon yesterday.
Captain Houssine Kharja's injury-time penalty appeared to have earned them a lifeline with a 2-2 draw, but Bruno Mbanangoyes' unstoppable free-kick in the eighth minute of stoppage time sent Gabon into the quarter-finals and eliminated Morocco.
Gerets is anxious to continue his work with Kharja and the promising younger generation of players emerging through the ranks. And with qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ and 2013 Africa Cup of Nations looming, he is adamant his team have a bright future.
"If they [the Moroccan Football Federation] let me do my job I will continue, if they are not happy with my performance they will let me know," he told a post-match press conference.
"For 15 months no one has talked about bad performances or a bad coach so it would be a bit surprising [to be sacked], but in my job it can happen. On Monday you are king, 24 hours later you are not a king.
"As long as I am coach of Morocco I will take my responsibility and continue with my philosophy of making my players improve. I know the team are capable of better."
The Belgian appeared stunned that a game Morocco were in control of at 1-0 up to the 76th minute could be turned so utterly on its head. "Watching the last quarter of an hour on the touchline my heart was pounding.
"We had problems towards the end, they [Gabon] were playing with long and high balls. We've seen at this cup the so-called 'weak' sides are upsetting the 'favourites'. I can't find an answer as to what happened, it's sad but that's life."
Turning to the FIFA World Cup in Brazil in 2014, Gerets was asked whether he still thought Morocco could make it to the finals, with qualifying starting in June.
"One month ago I would have told you 'yes', but after this performance I think it's better not to answer. I will have to see the reaction of the younger players who have a future but who have to stand up now and fight against this disappointment. Only the strong will survive."
Kharja, the Morocco captain and scorer of both goals yesterday, plus the one against Tunisia, made no attempt to mask his feelings.
"I have to congratulate Gabon but I am so disapointed and frustrated, I thought we were going to win this game. There's been a lot of expectation from the Moroccan people, and now we're knocked out, we fell from very high to very low.
"I hope for the sake of the Moroccan people we are able to pick up things and do better, I want to tell tell Moroccans we have a good generation of young players, we'll learn from our experience, and in the future we will be winners."
Morocco will try to leave the competition on a high with a win against Niger in Libreville on Tuesday.