Factfile on Morocco, who are in World Cup Group F:
Best World Cup performance: Second round in 1986.
Other honours: African champions in 1976.
FIFA ranking: 22.
Main clubs: Raja Casablanca, Wydad Casablanca, Renaissance Berkane.
How they qualified: Morocco defeated the Democratic Republic of Congo in a play-off.
Coach: Walid Regragui, 47, has had little time to prepare the Atlas Lions having replaced Bosnian Vahid Halilhodzic on the last day of August this year. Born in Paris, he played right-back for a number of French clubs and one in Spain and was capped 45 times by Morocco, the home of his parents. His coaching career began in 2012 as a Moroccan national team assistant and he then guided clubs in the north African kingdom and in Qatar. The highlight of his coaching career came this year when he led Wydad Casablanca to victory over Egyptian giants Al Ahly in the CAF Champions League final.
Key player: A stand-off between Chelsea winger Hakim Ziyech and Halilhodzic led to the change of coaches. The Bosnian accused him of feigning injury to avoid playing in warm-up matches last year, publicly calling it “unacceptable behaviour”. Ziyech, 29, responded by retiring from international football until Moroccan football officials intervened and dumped Halilhodzic. Regragui has hailed the Netherlands-born attacker as a “fighter who gives everything for his adopted country” but there are concerns about his lack of game time at Chelsea — he played just 17 minutes during October. There have been reports of a post-World Cup move to AC Milan.
Expectations and key players according to Ali Saccal, Alaedinne Chaaby and Abdessadek Iqachoura; MVN_EN:
“Moroccan are always loyal to Moroccan national team, no matter what. Morocco may well be a surprise at the World Cup with a former international as national coach. It will depend on how the defense is and especially how the striker problem will be solved. It will depend a lot on players like Ziyech, Hakimi, Mazraoui, Abde Ez, Saïss etc. We know the national coach, the man who follows his philosophy, tactics and especially cares about chemistry between players. We have enough qualities but everything will depend on the first group match against Croatia, everything is possible in this group. We strongly think we can surprise the world by qualifying as runner-up of the group.”
“The star players are Ziyech, Saïss, Bounou, Hakimi, Mazraoui, Abde Ez. If these players together ensure that a solid team is ready, then we have a motivated, strong team that will give everything at the World Cup.”
Nov 23: Morocco v Croatia
Nov 27: Belgium v Morocco
Dec 1: Canada v Morocco
Goalkeepers: Yassine Bounou (Sevilla/ESP), Munir Mohamedi (Al Wehda/KSA), Ahmed Reda Tagnaouti (Wydad Casablanca).
Defenders: Achraf Hakimi (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA), Noussair Mazraoui (Bayern Munich/GER), Nayef Aguerd (West Ham/ENG), Badr Benoun (Qatar SC), Romain Saiss (Besiktas/TUR), Yahya Attiyat Allah (Wydad Casablanca), Jawad El Yamiq (Valladolid/ESP), Achraf Dari (Brest/FRA).
Midfielders: Sofyan Amrabat (Fiorentina/ITA), Abdelhamid Sabiri (Sampdoria/ITA), Selim Amallah (Standard Liege/BEL), Azzedine Ounahi (Angers/FRA), Bilal El Khannouss (Genk/BEL), Yahya Jabrane (Wydad Casablanca).
Forwards: Hakim Ziyech (Chelsea/ENG), Amine Harit (Marseille/FRA), Abde Ezzalzouli (Osasuna/ESP), Zakaria Aboukhlal (Toulouse/FRA), Sofiane Boufal (Angers/FRA), Ilias Chair (Queens Park Rangers/ENG), Youssef En-Nesyri (Sevilla/ESP), Walid Cheddira (Bari/ITA), Abderrazak Hamed Allah (Al-Ittihad/KSA).
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