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Last Updated: Saturday, 14 February, 2004, 12:48 GMT
Zaki revives Lions fortunes
By Osasu Obayiuwana
BBC Sport, Tunis

Morocco coach Badou Zaki
Zaki had played for Morocco in the World Cup
Irrespective of the result in Saturday's Cup of Nations final against Tunisia, Morocco coach Badou Zaki will leave the tournament a satisfied man.

Assuming managerial responsibility and playing an active role in restoring the lost glory of the Atlas Lions has been a burning ambition Zaki nurtured for a long time.

"It has always been my dream to manage my country and I have worked very hard to get to this point," the ex-international goalkeeper told BBC Sport.

"I am doing my best to erase the bad memories of the 2000 and 2002 Nations Cups, where we did poorly.

"These tournaments did little for the image of Moroccan football at that time."

Before their opening match against Nigeria on 27 January, Zaki admitted he would be content with a quarter-final berth.

"Reaching the final is too much to think about," Zaki said at the time.

He felt a more realistic goal for the Atlas Lions was a finals berth in 2006 or 2008.

But now the former goalkeeper is on the verge of restoring Morocco's lost footballing pride.

After their early exits in 2000 and 2002, the country¿s confidence in the team was at an all-time low.

Since Zaki took charge two years ago many fans are now looking at his young team as possible successors to the legendary side of the 1980¿s.

No side has been able to emulate the achievements or reach the standards set by Mohammed Timoumi, Merry Krimau, Aziz Bouderbala and Zaki himself.

"What I and my colleagues did as players is finished and we must look to the future," Zaki said.

"I have great belief in my young team and we are working together to erase the bad memories of the past."

Fans at home are also pretty pleased with the side's progress.

"Everyone at home is so proud of what the team has done here,¿ said Fadoua Ghannam, a journalist with Audjourd¿Hui Le Maroc (Morocco Today), who is covering the tournment in Tunisia.

"No one expected this performance, so people are very happy."

The country's football officials are also confident that the national side has turned a corner.

"We are pleasantly surprised with what has happened in Tunisia,¿ said Mohammed Mourfid, general secretary of the Moroccan Federation.

"It has really given us cause to smile again."





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