Morocco coach Walid Regragui acknowledges the fans after the match as Morocco are eliminated from the World Cup REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
(Reuters) - Morocco coach Walid Regragui has hardly put a foot wrong in his team's dream World Cup run but he might come to regret the risk he took on fielding injured players, then seeing them forced to come off in Wednesday's 2-0 semi-final defeat by France.
Nayef Aguerd was named in the starting line up but dropped out in the warmup while fellow centre back and skipper Romain Saiss was forced off after 20 minutes. Fullback Noussair Mazraoui joined them on the sidelines at halftime, with France 1-0 up through Theo Hernandez from the fifth minute. All three had been injury doubts ahead of the match.
His rearranged team battled back strongly to put the holders under pressure until substitute Randal Kolo Muani's 79th minute goal ended the contest.
"We gave the maximum, that's the most important," Regragui said. "We had some injuries, we lost Aguerd in the warm-up, Saiss, Mazraoui... but there are no excuses.
"We paid for the slightest mistake. We didn't get into the game well, we had too much technical waste in the first half, and the second goal kills us, but that doesn't take away everything we did before."
Regragui said he changed his tactics defensively to try to deal with the speed of France's wingers, and it largely paid off until Kylian Mbappe delivered a brilliant late run to set up the winner.
Having become the first African team into the semis, Morocco now face Croatia in the third-place playoff on Saturday.
"It will be difficult on the mental level," Regragui said. "I will give opportunities to those who did not participate, and we will try to clinch the third place.
"The important thing is that we presented a good look to our team, and that soccer in Morocco is not far from the top levels."