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Africa Will Win World Cup in '15-20 Years': Morocco Coach

FILE - Morocco's coach Walid Regragui addresses a press conference ahead of their 2022 FIFA World Cup third place match against Croatia in Doha, Qatar, Dec. 16, 2022.

Morocco's coach Walid Regragui said he believes an African team will win the World Cup in the next "15 to 20 years" after his team finished fourth in Qatar.

The Atlas Lions, who became the first African World Cup semifinalists in history, lost Saturday's third place playoff 2-1 against Croatia but captured the imagination in Qatar.

The next World Cup in 2026, held across the USA, Canada and Mexico, will be expanded to 48 teams and Africa will have at least nine slots — up from five at present.

"With nine participants, we're going to learn. In 15, 20 years, I'm sure an African team will win the World Cup because we'll have learned," Regragui said.

"We have a stage to get past. We need to build on that, with hard work and desire. This DNA is not just being built for Morocco, but for the continent."

Morocco finished top of a group including Croatia and Belgium, who came third at the 2018 World Cup, before knocking out Spain and Portugal to reach the last four.

Their run was ended in the semifinals by defending champions France, but Regragui has urged his players to back up their historic display by winning next year's Africa Cup of Nations.

"I said to the players in the changing room, if you want to go down in history then you're going to have to win the Africa Cup of Nations," Regragui said.

"We need to dominate our continent."

Morocco have been crowned African champions just once, in 1976, but their performances at the World Cup demonstrated they are a team on the rise under Regragui, who was only appointed in August.

"Tomorrow morning we'll take stock and all realize we've pulled off a fantastic achievement here. We've earned a great deal of experience in a short space of time," Regragui said.

"We've gone further than expected but it's not enough. It needs to set an example for the future. I hope that everybody [in Africa] will learn from the experience."

With his sights set on winning a World Cup, Regragui expects "more pressure" to perform after his team's performance this year, adding that "hopefully there will be more African teams following our example."