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Morocco happy with extra time to acclimatise to Cup of Nations heat

THE Morocco squad’s decision to arrive early at the Africa Cup of Nations finals and acclimatise to the hot and humid conditions will work in their favour, coach Walid Regragui said.

The pre-tournament favourites, who became the first African side to reach the World Cup semi-final in Qatar some 14 months ago, arrived in Ivory Coast last Sunday as the first of the visiting competitors. They will have had 10 days to get used to conditions in the coastal town by the time they play their opening Group F match.

“We are very happy to have come much earlier. We were supposed to play against Gambia, but unfortunately, the match was cancelled at the last minute. We were forced to adapt,” he told reporters.

“This allowed three extra days to be able to adapt to the climate of San Pedro, where it is very hot. It is beneficial for the players so that their bodies get used to the heat.”

Morocco play their opening game against Tanzania on Wednesday.

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“For our first match the most important thing is to play with a squad who are all available for selection. We have established a style of play that we want to use at the Cup of Nations,” said Regragui.

Morocco hosted a friendly in San Pedro against Sierra Leone on Thursday, although not at the Laurent Pokou Stadium, which they won 3-1.

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“For the friendly match against Sierra Leone, we played to a schedule which will be similar to that of our second match in the group, which will be against DR Congo.”

That match on Jan. 21 kicks off at 2 p.m. local time.

“We think that the heat could be decisive in deciding who will win. These are difficult conditions for our players, who nevertheless did what was necessary against Sierra Leone to impose themselves and produce an enjoyable game.

“Of course, there are still details to be corrected, but we are confident in our potential,” Regragui added.

“We have supporters and our people behind us. We don’t want to disappoint them. We are all looking forward to reliving the same emotions as during the 2022 World Cup.”

Morocco has consistently been pre-tournament favourites at recent Cup of Nations tournaments but have only once won the continental championship, back in 1976.

By MARK GLEESON

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