KALININGRAD, Russia (Reuters) - Morocco will play their final World Cup match with a big chip on their shoulders, with their coach taking a few early parting shots at referees and officials on Sunday ahead of the team’s Group B clash with Spain.
A still-fuming Morocco coach Herve Renard seemed to be more focused on the 1-0 loss to Portugal last Wednesday than their Monday match against Spain and the chance of heading home with a big scalp.
The heart-breaking defeat to the European champions meant that Morocco would become the first team out of the World Cup and stung even more by what Renard viewed as questionable officiating.
“For us it is unjust we are already out before these third matches, but we have to accept reality and concentrate on this third game and to save our honour since this is all that is left to us,” said Renard.
“The most difficult thing is to play this kind of match knowing we will have to pack and go home and leave the competition.
“We have to force ourselves to find something to fight for.
“I hope we will be galvanised by what has been inflicted against us, and this is what I will try to tell my players.”
A battling Morocco have played with energy and purpose, but a lack of finishing left the North African side with nothing more to show for their effort than a pair of 1-0 losses to Portugal and Iran.
Renard was still particularly upset at what he felt was a foul by Portugal’s Pepe on Khalid Boutaib that opened the way for Ronaldo’s fourth minute goal.
“It is highly unfair,” said Renard. “There was a huge foul committed by Pepe on the first post, it was not seen. Why wasn’t it seen?
“And there was Pepe’s hand (ball) just as happened in Australia against Denmark for which there was a penalty. It may have been an unintentional hand, but why do we get different results in two games?
“And then Boutaib is tackled violently in the box and the referees don’t say a word, so the whole thing is totally unfair.”
While Morocco will be playing for honour, Spain will be seeking something much more tangible.
Spain enter their final group match on four points, equal with Portugal but with top spot up for grabs.
“As far as we are concerned we will play the same way we played against Portugal and Iran and so the best we can,” said Moroccan goalkeeper Munir Mohamedi. “We haven’t been fortunate with respect to the final results, but I do think we do deserve this reward and give some joy to the squad and all the people who supported us.”
(Removes incorrect reference in paragraph 14 to Spain having already secured place in last 16)
Reporting by Steve Keating; Editing by Hugh Lawson