Riyad Mahrez is “very proud” of Morocco after the Arab nation’s historic run to the World Cup.

Morocco’s success in the World Cup will help increase the size of the fanbase for African and Arab football, according to Manchester City winger Riyad Mahrez.

The Atlas Lions will face Portugal in the round of 16 of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 on Saturday night, after defeating other European giants such as Spain and Belgium. The enthusiasm and number of their supporters are the highlights of the competition and their support goes beyond Moroccans, to Arabs in the region and around the world.

“Of course it’s great to see this team succeed on the biggest stage like the World Cup,” said Mahrez, who captained Algeria and won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2019. .

Morocco is the fourth African team to reach the quarter-finals of a World Cup, and the first Arab team to do so. They are trying to become the first African team to reach the semi-final of the World Cup.

“I’m very proud and very happy,” said Mahrez. The National after Manchester City’s training session in Abu Dhabi, which took place on a small pitch and with fast passing. Many English Premier League clubs have opted out of a rare break in the season thanks to the World Cup.

Mahrez was relaxed about the impact this timeout would have on the rest of the season after the World Cup on December 18. The Premier League resumes on December 26.

“Just a two-week break [and then] everyone playing the World Cup is there,” said Mahrez. “Everybody’s going to get back in shape and get back to starting trying to get things going again.”

He signed a new two-year contract extension this summer which will see the 31-year-old stay at the club until June 2025. He is enthusiastic about his prospects for the rest of the season.

“I have already scored five goals [and] I haven’t played much, to be fair. I think the second half of the season will be better for me and for others. [bring] more goals to help the team,” he said.

He said he also enjoyed playing alongside ‘goal machine’ Erling Haaland, who was signed in the summer.

“He is a very good striker… he is there to score goals. He has a very good movement and a great presence in the box. I’m really happy to have him,” Mahrez said about the Norwegian.

Haaland has scored 23 goals for Manchester City in all competitions this season. He looked relaxed on the pitch at Emirates Palace, where he trained alone before entertaining dozens of fans, including children in City gear, by signing autographs and posing for photos . His teammates, including Mahrez, also took part in interacting with fans.

Manchester City will have a tough League Cup meeting at home to arch-rivals Liverpool on December 22.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola led training at Emirates Palace.  Chris Whiteoak / The National

Manager Pep Guardiola told those gathered after the training session that he was focused on this game first, but was philosophical about his team’s chances of bringing more trophies to the Etihad, “especially the Premier League and getting to best conditions in the Champions League”.

“We will see what happens… Football is unpredictable. [and] we will do our best,”

Most of City’s big stars have gone international, but there will still be a few names in Abu Dhabi besides Mahrez and Haaland. Veteran goalkeeper Scott Carson and German goalkeeper Stefan Ortega are part of the squad in Abu Dhabi. Like English midfielder Cole Palmer.

Sergio Gomez, who made his City debut this season from Anderlecht (Belgium), will also be present at the Emirates Palace.

“Now the whole team has to focus on the Premier League, the Champions League and the cups, without thinking about the World Cup, because the World Cup is over and we are focused on the next challenge,” he said. year-old Spaniard, who can play in midfield or left-back.

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