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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 22 July 2018

Al Jazira star Mbark Boussoufa lauds Morocco teammates after 'painful' World Cup exit

Speaking to The National after the match, Boussoufa could not hide his disappointment, but said he could not be more proud of his teammates for their efforts

Mbark Boussoufa paid tribute to his Moroccan teammates after their exit from the World Cup. Dean Mouhtaropoulos / Getty Images
Mbark Boussoufa paid tribute to his Moroccan teammates after their exit from the World Cup. Dean Mouhtaropoulos / Getty Images

Mbark Boussoufa praised Morocco for their application and attitude in Wednesday’s “painful” defeat to Portugal, despite the result confirming his side would be eliminated from the World Cup at the group stage.

The 33-year-old former Al Jazira midfielder played the full 90 minutes at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, but could not help his team avoid a second straight Group B defeat as they lost to Cristiano Ronaldo’s fourth-minute header.

Like in their previous match against Iran five days before, Morocco were the superior side for the majority, but spurned a number of clear chances in the second-half as Portugal held on. As such, the North Africans were consigned to another 1-0 defeat.

Contesting a first World Cup in 20 years, Morocco have no chance now of making the last 16 for only the second time. Speaking to The National after the match, Boussoufa could not hide his disappointment at the early exit, but paid tribute to his teammate’s efforts against the reigning European champions.

“Painful,” he said. “Painful, and a bit unjust. But this is football. You know it can be like this.

"I can say that I’m proud of the players; they gave everything. You could see it on the pitch. Even when after four minutes we concede a corner and then it’s a goal straightway.

"And I think it’s a foul. But you can always discuss about that.

“But overall it was a good game by us. Especially from all the players who played and gave everything. It’s just that we missed a little bit of precision in front of the goal.”

Mehdi Benatia, the Juventus defender and Morocco’s captain, was particularly culpable. He had three clear opportunities inside the Portugal penalty area in the second half, but failed to hit the target. Just before the hour, Younes Belhanda forced a superb save from opposing goalkeeper Rui Patricio.

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More from 2018 World Cup:

'Cristiano is Cristiano': Fonte grateful to have Ronaldo on his team

In pictures: Ronaldo and Portugal manage to defeat the Moroccans

Analysis: Why Ronaldo and set-piece experts are rocking Russia

WATCH: Riding for Ronaldo, Portugal fan completes road trip

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Morocco cannot dwell too much on the result, though. They must quickly collect their thoughts and regroup, with their final match in Russia to come on Monday against 2010 champions Spain.

Boussoufa, who represented Jazira for the previous two seasons and played an integral role in their 2016/17 Arabian Gulf League title win, said he is confident Morocco would give a similar display in Kaliningrad as to how they performed against Portugal in Moscow.

There, Morocco were cheered on by what felt like the majority of the 78,000 people at the Luzhniki.

“We should go with the same attitude that we want to play football, playing forward and creating chances,” Boussoufa said. “Only we hope now of course that the luck is going to maybe be on our side.

“We’re going to play against Spain, which is one of the biggest teams in the world. But even against the champions of Europe, we showed we wanted to be brave, we wanted to be positive. And sometimes it’s just you don’t have everything with you. And that’s what happened in these two games.

“This even more than the last game. But, again, this is football. We have to accept it, we have to go forward. We’re proud of all the fans who came to support us today, they were fantastic, and the players, too.

"Yeah, it’s painful but we’ve got to accept it and move forward.”