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Welsh connection to Moroccan success

Football fans have been in awe of Morocco’s historic World Cup journey over the past few weeks.

After defeating Portugal 1-0, they advanced to the tournament’s last four for the first time ever. Plus had previously defeated Belgium and Spain.

The success of the North African country in Qatar, however, has not surprised Osian Roberts, the assistant manager at Crystal Palace.

The Welshman served as Morocco’s technical director for two years until leaving in the summer of 2021 and relocating to Selhurst Park to work with Patrick Vieira.

“I’m immensely proud because I know all the players and the staff that are working behind the scenes and have been working hard for a long time and dreaming of something like this,” Roberts told BBC Sport Wales.

“We were knocked out of the African Cup of Nations last January by Egypt in the quarter-finals, so it felt as if this was a team that was underperforming and not performing in the big games.

“It looks with [Walid] Regragui coming in [as head coach], he’s unleashed some of that fear and allowed them to express themselves, because it’s a group that’s so talented with so many individual talents.

“I had Regragui as a student on my CAF pro licence in Morocco so I know him quite well. He’s renowned as a very good organiser defensively of teams and you can see that.

“He’s able to put teams together quickly and he’s certainly done that with this group.

“They’re very well organised, very well structured and very well disciplined but of course then the talent in the group is quite immense really, even when you look at the back six.

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“They’ve come together at the right time just ahead of the tournament and they’ve gone from strength to strength.”

Roberts said Morocco’s World Cup exploits have reminded him of Wales reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2016, when he was a member of Chris Coleman’s coaching team.

Morocco take on World Champions France in the semi-finals tonight, 7pm, BBC One