FIFA World Cup 2018 team profile: Morocco back in fray after long time
Morocco have qualified for the FIFA World Cup for the first time in 20 years.football Updated: Jun 03, 2018 13:47 IST
Qualifying route: Round 1 – bye; Round 2 – defeated Equatorial Guinea 2-1 (2-0, 0-1) on aggregate; Round 3 – Group C winners
Head coach: Herve Renard
World Cup history: Qualified four times; best – Round of 16 (1986)
Squad (final): Goalkeepers - Munir Mohamedi, Yassine Bounou, Ahmad Reda Tagnaouti; Defenders - Mehdi Benatia, Romain Saiss, Manuel Da Costa, Badr Benoun, Nabil Dirar, Achraf Hakimi, Hamza Mendyl; Midfielders - M’bark Boussoufa, Karim El Ahmadi, Youssef Ait Bennasser, Sofyan Amrabat, Younes Belhanda, Faycal Fajr, Amine Harit; Forwards - Khalid Boutaib, Aziz Bouhaddouz, Ayoub El Kaabi, Nordin Amrabat, Mehdi Carcela, Hakim Ziyech.
It has been a long wait for Morocco since their last FIFA World Cup appearance way back in 1998. The North African side’s best performance came in 1986 when they reached the Round of 16 after holding England and Poland to goalless draws before defeating Portugal to top their group. The next two times were not so impressive as they were knocked out in the group stages. (FIFA WORLD CUP 2018 FULL SCHEDULE)
However, they are back with a strong side and although they will face Spain, Portugal and Iran in the group stages, the underdogs will certainly be dreaming of progress into the knock-out stages.
Morocco had an impressive qualifying campaign and In the last round, they were able to finish at the top of a group containing Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon and Mali. They were unbeaten in their last six games without conceding a single goal and the strikers scored as many as 11 goals in the six matches.
The biggest name in the Morocco squad is the Juventus defender Medhi Benatia who will also captain the side in the FIFA World Cup 2018. The seasoned veteran has played a major part of his football career in Europe and the team will be looking at him for guidance against their opponents.
When it comes to the attackers, Ajax midfielder Hakim Ziyech and Achraf Hakmi will be key to their team’s plans. While Ziyech had nine goals and 15 assists for Ajax earned him the Dutch Footballer of the Year award while Hakimi was part of La Liga giants Real Madrid’s star-studded squad this season.
Three players to watch out for
Medhi Benatia - The most well-known and experienced member of the team will be looking to lead by example in Russia. The defender has played for big clubs like Bayern Munich and Juventus in his career and his performance will be key to Morocco’s fortune in the FIFA World Cup 2018.
Karim El Ahmadi - The 33-year-old is a veteran with 44 international caps and he will be in charge of providing extra support to the defenders. The defensive midfielder is currently playing for Dutch club Feyenood and he played a major role in maintaining Morocco’s unbeaten run in the qualifiers.
Hakim Ziyech - The 25-year-old is the main striker for Morocco and he will be coming to Russia on the back of a successful season with Dutch League giants Ajax. The striker scored nine goals and 15 assists to earn the Dutch Footballer of the Year award and he will be looking to continue his dominant run.
First Published: Jun 03, 2018 13:47 IST