• WC 2018: More than 10,000 Moroccan Fans will Support Atlas Lions in Russia

    Over 10,000 Moroccans fans will travel to Russia to support the Atlas Lions in their World Cup games.

    Head of the Moroccan government Saad Eddine El Othmani said on his facebook account that 8500 will travel from Morocco while 3000 members of the Moroccan diaspora will join them in support of the national squad.

    El Othmani was on a stop in Russia on his way back to Morocco from a trip in South Korea.

    Morocco was pitched in a difficult Group B with the last two European champions Spain and Portugal in addition to Iran.

    Morocco made its way through the qualifications for the World Cup without conceding a single goal. The return of the Atlas Lions to the World stages comes after twenty years of absence following a heartbreaking elimination from the group stage at France’98.

    Morocco’s team has built its game on solid defense and hard work. The experience of Karim El Ahmadi, M’barek Boussoufa and Juventus’s Mehdi Benatia fits well with the intelligence of Hakim Ziyech and the strength of Nordin Amrabat.

    Morocco will play Iran on June 15. On the same day, Spain, which eliminated Portugal in the last 16 on the way to winning its first World Cup in 2010, will open against the European champions in Sochi.

    http://northafricapost.com/23800-more-than-10000-moroccan-fans-will-support-atlas-lions-in-russia.html

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  • NT: Moroccan Players to Watch in the World Cup

    By Morocco World News

    Rabat – After 20 years, Morocco is back on the field and on the road to Russia 2018 with a football squad full of potential. Only six of the 23 players were born in Morocco, while the others were born in either France or the Netherlands.

    FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) holds the authority of maintaining and implementing the rules that determine whether an association football player is eligible to represent a particular country. Since 2004, FIFA requires that a player must demonstrate a “clear connection” with the country they wish to represent.

    For the first match on June 15, Morocco will be facing opponent team in their group, Iran. This is a must-win game for Morocco as they will also be facing tough teams, Spain and Portugal, in Group B.

    Here is a closer look at the high-key individual players:

    High-Profiled and Experienced Players

    Captain and the Juventus F.C. center back, Medhi Benatia’s goals are to lead his team into the knockout stages against the odds. Since Spain and Portugal hold a strong soccer reputation, many are already doubting Morocco’s skills.

    Two-time Belgian Golden Shoe winner and former player on the Chelsea youth team back in 2006, is attacking midfielder Mbark Boussoufa. The 33-year-old is filled with experience and ready to bring his skills and techniques to the field.

    Born in the Netherlands and both parents being Moroccan, Karim El Ahmadi is a former Aston Villa midfielder, and also one of the most experienced players on the squad.

    Former Watford midfielder, Nordin Amrabat, who is also a current player for Spanish club CD Leganés a is one of the most acclaimed players in the Moroccan squad.

    Overlooked Players

    The 24-year-old striker, Ayoub El Kaabi, can possibly move the spotlight towards himself with his outstanding statistics. He is the top goal scorer of the CHAN 2018 (African Nations Championship) which took place in Morocco with 9 goals.

    Another player to watch is Romain Saïss, who currently plays as a midfielder for English club Wolverhampton Wanderers.. The 28-year-old French-born was qualified to play for Morocco thank to his Moroccan ancestry. According to TheSportsman, Saïss completed almost 2000 short passes throughout the season, putting him 5th in the league overall.

    The Future

    Currently playing as a midfielder for German club Schalke 04, the 20-year-old French-born, Amine Harit, is Morocco’s future star player. The young player has caught many people’s attention with his mastered speed, agility, and ball control.

    The second promising star is Spanish-born Moroccan, Achraf Hakimi, who plays for Spanish Club Real Madrid. As a 19-year-old defender, Achraf is an attacking threat and has managed to make his way to the top of the field with two goals for Real Madrid, while also assisting others.

    Both players are to make their first World Cup appearance in Russia 2018.

    Possibly the Top Scorer for the World Cup Russia 2018

    The 25-year-old, Hakim Ziyech, plays as an attacking midfielder for Amsterdam Club Ajax. He is known for his dribbling skills and his ability to put the ball behind the net from free kicks.

    According to TheSportsman, Ziyech has eight goals from 15 caps, giving him the second highest goal-tally on the team, and he will be key to creating or scoring the goals that Morocco will need to progress in Group B.

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  • 2018 World Cup: Hakimi Wants to Make Moroccans Proud Again

    By Morocco World News

    Rabat – Moroccan international footballer Achraf Hakimi has expressed his determination to make Moroccans feel proud again during the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

    Hakimi, who is a key player for the Moroccan team, made the list of the Atlas Lions who will play in Russia in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

    In an interview with Moroccan TV channel Al Oula, the 19-year old Real Madrid football player shared his aspirations and his teammates’ determination to make another successful achievement in Russia.

    For El Hakimi, wearing the Moroccan kit is a “dream.” The young player addressed a message to Moroccan fans, promising them that he will do his best to make them happy again.

    In the qualification round last year Morocco did not lose a game, making all Moroccans proud after 20 years of absence from the FIFA World Cup field.

    The footballer also talked about players who inspire him, naming his teammate Marcelo Vieira, Moroccan Hajji brothers, and Noureddine Naybet.

    The Atlas Lions will play their first game against Iran on June 15, and the second game will be against Portugal on June 20. Morocco will play the last game in the first round of the World Cup against Spain on June 25.

    Hakimi asked Moroccans to support the national team as they did in the qualifier games.

    Hakimi has played for Real Madrid for just a short period of time. Recently, speculations on social media said that this season will be the last for Hakimi in Real Madrid. His coach, Zinedine Zidane, however, shut down the rumors and said that the Spanish-Moroccan footballer has a promising future.

    “Achraf Hakimi, Borja Mayoral and Marcos Llorente have to play ‘20 or 25 games’ next year to continue their development,” said the Frenchman.

    He added that “One year here, playing less and training with those who do play, isn’t a lost year. They have improved a lot, they have had minutes, and each player expects to play more.”

    Hakimi scored his first goal for the Spanish team on December 10 against Sevilla, becoming the first Moroccan ever to score for Real Madrid.

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  • Benatia: ‘I See Myself in The Finals of The World Cup’

    By Morocco World News

    Rabat – Mehdi Benatia is confident about taking the Atlas Lions all the way in the 2018 World Cup in Russia. In an interview with France 24, the captain of the national team has talked about his ambitions for the World Cup, the path that led him to Juventus, and his determination to restore “pride and happiness” to Moroccan fans, as he counts on “the state of mind” of his team.

    Benatia is well aware of the challenge he will face competing against Iran, Spain and Portugal in the first round.

    “We already know that it’s going to be difficult. When you have the chance to participate in the World Cup, you want to play these kind of games, especially with Spain, which is the best team in the world […] It’s a pride and it’s a beautiful challenge,” the 31-year-old player said.

    The Juventus defender added that he sees himself in the finals as he wants to make Moroccans proud of the Atlas Lions. “I want the Moroccan supporter to be happy in the streets of Moscow.”

    Moreover, “El Capitano” has faith in his team that he describes as strong and unified. “We have seen the state of mind of the national team during the pre-World Cup friendly games. We have a strong bond and that’s how we help each other,” he explained.

    Benatia also talked about his career in Italy and recalled his time at Olympique Marseille (OM), where he is rumored to be returning in the mercato (transfer window).

    Earlier this month, several media announced that OM was insisting on recruiting the Atlas Lion.

    The French manager of OM, Rudi Garcia, asked for the Juventus defender, remembering his collaboration with AS Roma a few years ago when he was Benatia’s coach. In order to recruit Benatia, OM will have to spend more than EUR 25 million.

    “I was formed in Olympique Marseille. I wasn’t given the chance at the time to play with the professionals. When I look back at my career now I think it’s a good thing, I feel good with where I am know,” said the defender.

    Benatia, 31, has spent most of his career in Italy, where he has played for Udinese, AS Roma, and Juventus. He joined the latter on loan from German football giant Bayern Munich.

    Captain Benatia concluded his interview by picturing himself in the finals. “If I close my eyes, I see myself passing the first round, and winning against France and even Argentina. Everything is possible.”

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  • WC 2018: 'Brilliant and sloppy' Ziyech could prove Morocco’s talisman

    (Reuters) - Hakim Ziyech reacted with a fit of pique when he was left out of Morocco’s squad for last year’s African Nations Cup finals and vowed he would never play international football again.

    Some six months later he was netting key goals for the north Africans as they surged past the more fancied Ivory Coast in their qualifying group to book a place at the World Cup finals in Russia.

    It is characteristic of the 25-year-old, Dutch-born wide player to react tempestuously in adversity but he is also admired for his understated manner in celebrating his success.

    Coach Herve Renard felt he could not assure the mercurial Ajax midfielder of a starting berth in his line-up for the Nations Cup and preferred not to have such a strong personality brooding on the bench.

    But Ziyech’s absence was something Moroccans could ill-afford in their bid to earn a first World Cup place in 20 years, and Renard travelled to patch up the relationship.

    Going into next month’s World Cup finals, it is Ziyech who could prove the team’s talisman if Morocco can overcome a difficult draw.

    “Ziyech is a player whom everyone is always talking about,” wrote the Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad.

    “It is because in a single game he can manage to be both absolutely brilliant and astonishingly sloppy.”

    His consistent inconsistency drives Ajax supporters to distraction and they often subject him to a humiliating concert of derisory whistles. Earlier this month however, they also voted him their player of the season.

    Ziyech intends to move on from Ajax after the World Cup and the finals present him with a stage to attract top-quality suitors.

    “I have little left to achieve in the Netherlands and I feel I need a new challenge,” he said.

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  • Factbox - Morocco World Cup

    (Reuters) - Factbox on the Morocco national team ahead of the 2018 World Cup:

    FIFA ranking: 42 (till June 7)

    Previous tournaments:

    Morocco are appearing in their fifth World Cup finals, but their first since the 1998 edition in France. They were only the second African country to play at the finals, picking up a first point at the 1970 tournament in Mexico and then in 1986 becoming the first African country to get past the opening round when they topped a group ahead of England, Poland and Portugal. They were narrowly beaten by West Germany in the last 16.

    Coach:

    Herve Renard: Just over a decade ago, Renard was running an office cleaning business and dreaming of a way into the game. He took up a post as assistant to Claude Le Roy, the much-travelled Frenchman who has handled numerous different African national teams, and has not looked back since. Renard, who turns 50 this year, took Zambia to the 2012 African Nations Cup title and repeated the feat with the Ivory Coast three years later. Regarded as having a firm disciplinary hand but also allowing free-flowing football, Renard’s success in Africa has seen him twice offered jobs in Ligue 1 but his tenures at Sochaux and Lille proved brief.

    Key players:

    Younes Belhanda: A graduate of Montpellier’s prodigious youth system, the crafty midfielder helped the unfashionable club to win their first Ligue 1 title in 2012 and was named France’s best footballer at the same time. The success led to a lucrative move to Dynamo Kiev, where he slipped somewhat from view, but he went to Galatasaray on a four-year deal last July and the 28-year-old is again proving his worth.

    Mehdi Benatia: French-born centre-back whose career looked stuck in Ligue 2 before he moved to Italy and made a quick impression with Udinese, his fortunes surging as he was signed by Roma, Bayern Munich and then Juventus. The 31-year-old won two Bundesliga titles at Bayern and now two in a row with Juventus.

    Karim El Ahmadi: The 33-year-old defensive midfielder is likely to call time on his international career at the end of the World Cup. He captained Feyenoord to their first league title in 18 years last season and at the end of the year was voted best player in the Dutch league.

    Form guide:

    Morocco beat Serbia and Uzbekistan in warm-up friendlies in March and their home-based national team, made up of players from their local league, won the African Nations Championship which the country hosted in January.

    How they qualified:

    Morocco did not concede a goal in finishing top of Group C in the African preliminaries, four points clear of second-placed Ivory Coast, who had been to the three previous World Cups.

    Prospects:

    Morocco have been handed a tough draw after being grouped with Portugal, Spain and Iran. They must get their Group B campaign off to a winning start against Iran on June 15 in St Petersburg and then hope for results against the reigning European champions and 2010 World Cup winners.

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  • ‘We Don’t Always Select The Best Players’: Coach Hervé Renard

    Morocco World News

    Rabat – After revealing his list of 23 players, Hervé Renard has explained his choices in an interview with Medi 1 TV, expressing once again his joy in leading the Atlas Lions to the 2018 World Cup.

    Renard is well aware of the high responsibility that he will face in the World Cup. After releasing his picks for the players who will compete this summer, the French coach has explained that he doesn’t always select the best players, but he always serves the interests of the whole group.

    “We do not always pick the top 23. We select a group of 16 or 17 players and then people who are able to not get bored for a month, a month and a half. That is to say that states of mind are not mandatory and that the collective interest is primary,” he said.

    The national team coach is responding to criticism that leaving Boufal and Azaro off the list is unfair.

    For Renard, Morocco’s participation in the long-awaited event is like a dream come true.

    “I feel like I’m going to live something I’ve been dreaming of since I was a kid. Participating in the World Cup is a pride,” he said, while assuring that he has confidence in his group of players.

    “Morocco is certainly expecting great things from its national team. I think we are on the right track. This is what makes you want to go to the World Cup not to disappoint people, not to make sad a country like Morocco who expects great things from his national team or at least a very good image. I think we are on the right track.”

    However, Renard believes that the World Cup is an Africa Cup of Nations multiplied by 10.

    “Since I participated in 6 African Cups, I have a little experience. Now there are parameters that I will have to master a little more for this World Cup. I’m going to meet people to take advice, to win and to make sure that we improve on some small details that will make the difference,” he concluded.

    When the tournament begins on June 14, the Atlas Lions will first take on Iran on June 15. The team will face Portugal in their second game on June 20, and the final in the first-round match for Morocco will be against Spain on June 25.

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  • Former internationals: First Moroccan to Score in the World Cup Dies at 74

    By Morocco World News

    Rabat – The former Moroccan player, Mohammed Jarir, died on Saturday, at 74, in the United States of America.

    With Jarir’s passing, Morocco lost one of his formative former players, who wore the Moroccan colors with distinction on more than one occasion. Jarir was born in 1944, in Casablanca, and his passion for football began at the age of 8. He started his professional football career in one of Morocco’s strongest clubs, Raja Club Athletic.

    Jarir demonstrated his dedication and love for football with his phenomenal skills and performance, which later led him to become a member of the Moroccan national team for the 1970 Mexican World Cup. During the tournament, Jarir scored a goal against Germany, becoming the first Moroccan to score in the World Cup.

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  • WC 2026: German Lothar Matthäus named ambassador for Morocco's bid to host 2026 World Cup

    (Xinhua) -- Former captain of German football team Lothar Matthäus has been appointed as Morocco's 2026 World Cup bid ambassador, Morocco's bid committee announced on Saturday.

    "Morocco is pleased to welcome the iconic Lothar Matthäus, former captain of the German national team and winner of the 1990 FIFA World Cup, as Morocco's 2026 World Cup bid ambassador," the Committee said in a statement.

    "I support Morocco's bid for the FIFA 2026 World Cup because I am convinced that Morocco, with its innovative concept, will offer good conditions to players, fans and all football lovers," Matthäus said, adding that Morocco is a true football land.

    Matthäus was also FIFA's best footballer for 1991. He won the prize of the best European player for 1990 and the best German player for 1990 and 1999.

    The German star joins the list of ambassadors of the Moroccan bid, which includes former Brazilian football star Roberto Carlos, Cameroonian Joseph-Antoine Bell, Senegalese Hadji Diouf and Khalilou Fadiga, Tunisian Adel Chedli and Congolese Robert Kidiaba.

    Morocco is looking to be the second African side to ever host the tournament after South Africa in 2010.

    This is Morocco's fifth bid to host the World Cup, after its losses for the 1994, 1998, 2006 and 2010 editions of the event.

    Morocco is competing with a joint bid from the United States, Mexico and Canada.

    The winning bid is slated to be announced in June, 2018.

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  • Moroccans Abroad: Youssef El-Arabi Awarded Best Scorer in Qatar

    (Morocco World News) Although he did not make Coach Hervé Renard’s list of 23 players for the national team in the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Youssef El-Arabi can be proud of himself, as he was awarded the trophy of the best scorer in the Qatar Stars League for the 2017/2018 season.

    The Moroccan international player received the distinction Thursday night in Doha.

    With a total of 26 goals, the international footballer led his Qatari team Al-Duhail to win the Qatar championship.

    The club has won for the second time in a row and for the sixth time in its history.

    El-Arabi’s performance allowed him to beat Tunisian Youssef Msakni, who scored 25 goals during the season. The Moroccan Abderazzak Hamed Allah, who plays in the Al Rayyan club, came in third place with 18 goals scored during the championship.

    As for El-Arabi’s national career, the 31-year-old sensation previously expressed his wish to be chosen to play with the Atlas Lions for the World Cup.

    “Any footballer dreams of defending the colors of his country at the World Cup,” he said in an interview with the German Press Agency (DPA).

    Born in France, El Arabi represented Morocco with the Atlas Lions in 2010 in three Africa Cup of Nations tournaments. The footballer also played for Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal club and for La Liga Club Granada in 2012.

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