By The Atlas Lions, 07-Dec-2013 17:47:00
Crystal Palace beat fellow struggler Cardiff 2-0 in the Premier League on Saturday to take a big step toward escaping the relegation zone.
Cameron Jerome gave Palace the lead in the sixth minute and Marouane Chamakh added the second in the 58th as the London club continued its revival under new manager Tony Pulis.
It was Palace's second straight home win after beating West Ham on Tuesday, and it's now level on points with the 17th-place Hammers. Cardiff is one point ahead.
Jerome headed in his first Palace goal and remained a constant threat as the hosts dominated for large spells and deservedly doubled their lead as Chamakh finished coolly just before the hour mark.
Cardiff striker Fraizer Campbell wasted a good opportunity to put his side ahead inside the opening two minutes when his downward header was pushed over by Julian Speroni.
By The Atlas Lions, 07-Dec-2013 17:44:00
Substitute Oussama Assaidi scored in the last minute as Stoke dented Chelsea's title drive with a 3-2 win in the Premier League on Saturday.
Assaidi won the game with an impressive strike from outside the area into the top right corner after being set up by Stephen Ireland.
Chelsea led with a ninth-minute opener from Andre Schurrle at the Britannia Stadium before Peter Crouch equalized in the 42nd and Ireland put Stoke ahead in the 50th.
Schurrle equalized with his second goal in the 53rd before he was substituted by Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.
By The Atlas Lions, 06-Dec-2013 10:30:00
(supersport.com) Raja Casablanca have appointed Tunisian coach Faouzi Benzarti as head coach of their team.
The team had fired their former coach Mohamed Fakhir for poor results before they approached former Tunisia coach Nabil Maaloul who eventually refused the job.
The team director Salaheddine Bassir had revealed earlier they had a short list of two coaches and that they would pick one of them. They are Hassan Shehata and Faouzi Benzarti .
The North African team announced on their official website that they sealed a deal with Benzarti who will arrive in Morocco next Monday to sign the contract.
They also assured that the new coach will work under the same terms as Mohamed Fakhir .
Sources revealed that the current coach Helal Al Taier will lead the team in the next FIFA Club World Cup and Benzarti will take charge afterwards for the run in the domestic league and the African Champions League.
The 63 years old coach started his career as head coach in 1979 with US Monastir before he moved to lead Étoile du Sahel and then Club Africain. He then returned to Étoile du Sahel , US Monastir and the finally to Club Africain in 2013.
By The Atlas Lions, 29-Nov-2013 13:59:00
(BBC) Raja Casablanca have sacked coach Mohamed Fakhir only two two weeks before the start of the Club World Cup in Morocco.
"A number of factors have allowed us to come to the conclusion that Raja could not stand up to the upcoming challenges with Fakhir in charge," spokesman Samir Chaouki told Atlantic radio.
He added that Hilal Tair, already a member of the staff, would take charge on an interim basis while the club search for a permanent successor.
The decision to part company with Fakhir comes after a 1-0 defeat to El Jadida on Thursday, a result which left Raja in fifth place in the Moroccan top flight, albeit just three points behind leaders Moghreb Tetouan.
Raja, who have won 11 league titles and three African Champions League crowns, also lost the Moroccan Cup final on penalties to El Jadida earlier this month.
Tunisian Nabil Maaloul and Portuguese Jose Romao are both contenders to replace Fakhir.
As reigning champions of the host nation, Raja will take part in next month's Club World Cup.
They will face Auckland City, the champions of Oceania, in a play-off in Agadir on 11 December 11, with the winner going through to a quarter-final against Concacaf champions Monterrey on 14 December.
By The Atlas Lions, 21-Nov-2013 21:01:00
(FIFA.com) With just a few weeks to go until the kick-off of the FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2013, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter took part in a round table event with Moroccan journalists via phone confernce to discuss, among other subjects, the final preparations for the tournament and what the country and competing teams can expect from the tenth edition of the prestigious event.
Following Guangzhou Evergrande’s triumph in the final of the AFC Champions League, the line-up for Morocco 2013 is now complete.
The newly crowned kings of Asian football will take their place alongside Raja Casablanca, representing the host nation, UEFA Champions League winners Bayern Munich, CAF Champions League winners Al Ahly, OFC Champions League winners Auckland City, CONCACAF Champions League victors Monterrey, and Atletico Mineiro, who captured the Copa Libertadores earlier this year.
“Morocco is definitely ready to welcome these great club teams,” announced President Blatter, in response to a question about FIFA’s final inspection visit.
“FIFA not only carried out an inspection, but a proper visit, to verify that this major international sporting event, a milestone for Morocco and Africa, will be successful. We have confidence in the Local Organising Committee and we have the support of the Moroccan government and His Majesty, the King.
“The two chosen stadiums – in Agadir and Marrakesh – are in an excellent condition and should enable us to see some great matches. We have no doubts from an organisational point of view; it’s going to be a success,” he continued.
If this prediction proves correct, Morocco could well gain significant long-term benefits from the tournament, which runs from 11 to 21 December. The head of FIFA confirmed this, when asked if the competition could be used as a trial run for the potential hosting of a larger event in the future.
“The Moroccans made a bid to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, and they weren’t far away from getting it, as the voting was pretty close in the end,” he pointed out.
“Even back then, His Majesty and the then President of the Moroccan FA told us that despite not being selected, Morocco would continue working on football development and building new stadiums. And that’s what you did!
We have no doubts from an organisational point of view; it’s going to be a success. FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter on the FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2013
“This therefore augurs well in terms of organising other FIFA competitions, including – why not? – the FIFA World Cup when Africa gets a chance to host again. This Club World Cup will be a very useful test for the future.”
The FIFA President provided a further shot in the arm for Moroccan and indeed African football by confirming that a seminar for the technical directors from 27 of the continent’s member associations would be held in tandem with the tournament.
“African football development was already given a boost by our ‘Win in Africa with Africa’ programme during the 2010 World Cup, which was a huge success from a financial viewpoint, as each association received a football development bonus,” he explained.
“But we continue to follow the changes at national league level in Africa – that’s very important.”
It was by emerging victorious from Morocco’s domestic league, known as the Botola Pro, that Raja Casablanca earned the right to lock horns with some of the planet’s top teams. It was not that long ago, however, that representatives from only two continents had the possibility of vying for the title of ‘world’s greatest club side’.
“For many years, there was only the Intercontinental Cup, which pitted the South American champions against the European champions,” recalled the head of world football’s governing body.
“This became unacceptable, because club competitions had developed considerably, especially in Africa and Asia, and it’s now up to teams from those regions to show that they can compete with the best, and even defeat the best.
"Good luck, then, to Al Ahly and Raja Casablanca. Moroccan fans have the chance to witness a major international event. I’m sure we’ll see full stadiums and a fantastic atmosphere throughout the tournament,” concluded the FIFA President.
By The Atlas Lions, 19-Nov-2013 12:06:00
Fulham are being linked with a January transfer window swoop for Sporting Lisbon's Morocco international forward Zakaria Labyad. Reports claim Cottagers boss Martin Jol has been alerted by the 20-year-old's possible availability as it seems he has been frozen out at the Portuguese outfit who want to get him off the wage bill due to current financial problems. And former PSV Eindhoven starlet, Labyad, who played 20 games and scored two goals in his first season at Sporting after signing a five-year deal in July 2012, could be snapped up by Jol in the next transfer window. Labyad can operate behind the striker or on either wing and would be a useful acquisition to the Cottagers as they look to bolster their squad following a poor start to the Premier League campaign. Dutch duo Ajax and former club PSV have also been linked with a move for the player. by Taboola
Read more at: http://www.clubcall.com/fulham/labyad-in-cottage-switch-link-1665795.html?
By The Atlas Lions, 18-Nov-2013 14:03:00
(FIFA.com) Gearing up for their second tilt at the FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco next month, Raja Casablanca will be hoping for a superb campaign from experienced forward Mouhssine Iajour as they look to make a splash on the global stage.
Iajour is currently enjoying life back at the club where it all began for him at the age of 18, ten years ago. Having started his career with the Moroccan giants, he then took his talents abroad to Swiss outfit Chiasso, before spending two years in Belgium with Charleroi.
From there, he returned home to join Wydad Casablanca, Raja's eternal rivals, but he crossed the city divide again last year to be reunited with the team where he made his professional debut. Together, they promptly clinched the Moroccan league title to book a spot in December's Club World Cup.
Appearing in the competition will no doubt bring back fond memories for Iajour, who scored four goals to help Morocco finish fourth at his last FIFA tournament – the FIFA U-20 World Cup Netherlands 2005. "I ended up top scorer in the African Youth Championship and top scorer for my team at the U-20 World Cup," Iajour told FIFA.com. "This Club World Cup will be my second international tournament. I hope the whole world will remember Iajour as a striker who struck fear into even the best defences."
The 28-year-old will certainly bring a lot of knowhow to bear in the competition, plenty of it having been picked up in the Netherlands eight years ago. "The U-20 World Cup was a chance to learn," he said. "I'm an experienced player now and I'll use that to help my team. With Morocco, we reached the semi-finals and came within touching distance of the final. Raja can make it to the semi-finals of the Club World Cup, and even the final itself."
For that to happen, Raja will need vociferous support from the stands, but Iajour knows the club's traditionally passionate fans can be relied upon to do their part. "Our supporters are hungry for victory, especially in a competition like this," explained the forward, who is as comfortable with his left foot as his right. "It's not easy to qualify for the Club World Cup and even the biggest clubs don't take part in it every year. Some have only appeared once and others never, so we have to prove that we deserve to be there."
That said, Iajour is under no illusions as to the size of Raja's task. "We'll be facing teams who won their continental tournaments and won't just be there by chance," he noted. "Raja are known for raising our game in the big matches, though. We really hope we can honour all the fans in Morocco, especially as this might be our last participation in the event."
Tough opening assignment
Mohamed Fakhir's troops kick off their campaign against Auckland City FC in the play-off for the quarter-finals, with the New Zealand side back in the competition for a fifth time. Despite the experience of their opponents, Iajour feels Raja must be considered favourites thanks to home advantage and the backing of their supporters. "We have to win that first match against Auckland because we're the hosts of the tournament and the crowd will expect a lot of us," he said.
"The opening match will determine how the rest of the competition goes, and a defeat would disappoint everyone. Our many fans are expecting to see the club win its first victory in this competition. That would allow us to go through to the quarter-finals, and then to face Atletico Mineiro in the semis."
Iajour and his colleagues are not taking Auckland lightly, though, and will approach the encounter having done their homework. "We watched the previous editions of the tournament and studied this team, who are really good and have many professional players in their ranks," he said. "Auckland have done great things in this tournament and the fact that they've qualified for Morocco 2013 shows that they're an international-class side who we'll need to tackle with care."
Rubbing shoulders with the elite
Among the other teams hoping to prosper on Moroccan soil are Bayern Munich, Atletico Mineiro, Monterrey – who finished third last year – and Al Ahly, back for their fifth Club World Cup. This will be Raja's second bite, the Casablanca club having lost all three of their games at the inaugural edition in 2000, going down to Corinthians, Real Madrid and Saudi Arabian side Al Nasr.
Few are expecting them to take this year's competition by storm, but Iajour believes Raja can draw inspiration from several clubs who have upset the odds at this level in the past. "Football doesn't follow any logic and there are no big and small teams any more," he said. "We want to reach the semi-finals at least. I hope we'll come up against a big team and that Raja can make front-page headlines.
"We're going to do it," added the confident forward, who stands 1.78m tall. "Who would have bet on Mazembe reaching the final [in 2010]? Even the biggest optimists thought they could reach the last four at best, but they went to the final and fully deserved to be there. The Saudi Arabian club Al Sadd also got to the semis, and Al Ahly have come close to the final before."
If Iajour hopes to help his team pull off a similar exploit, he will need to be in optimal form, something he has struggled to achieve so far this term. He has struck just two goals in eight league outings, and his travails in front of goal have elicited comparisons with Madrid forward Karim Benzema, another player yet to hit his peak this season.
Iajour himself can only chuckle at mentions of the French international. "It's true that both of us went without scoring for a fairly long time," he said. "But I tend to be decisive in the big games, which ought to help me find the net in the Club World Cup. My first mission is to score, but the coach also wants me to create chances for my team-mates. I know I'll be one of the leading scorers in the tournament."
Indeed, having topped the goal charts with four strikes at the 2005 CAF African Youth Championship, Iajour's dream is to snaffle the adidas Golden Boot as the Club World Cup's most prolific marksman. "Every player dreams of getting their name on the scoresheet in a big competition," he explained. "I finished among the top scorers at the U-20 World Cup and the African Youth Championship, so why can't I do it at the Club World Cup as well? It's true, though, that it'll be difficult up against players like Ronaldinho and Mario Mandzukic, and goalkeepers like Manuel Neuer."
Iajour's advantage, of course, will be playing in front of crowds spurring him on to succeed. "Most great teams get their enthusiasm and their ability to make the difference from their supporters. At Raja, we have a lot of fans and they back us everywhere we play, so I can only imagine what it'll be like at this Club World Cup. The fact that the tournament is being held in Morocco is a factor in our favour and I hope we'll make Club World Cup history in style."
By The Atlas Lions, 15-Nov-2013 22:57:00
(Reuters) - FIFA has refused to recognize the new president of the Moroccan football federation (FRMF) and ordered new elections, but said next month's hosting of the World Club Cup will not be affected.
Fouzi Lekjaa was elected on Sunday following a marathon election to replace Ali Fassi Fihri, however soccer's governing body said that the FRMF "had not fulfilled its duty to comply with FIFA directives".
"FIFA has asked the FRMF to adopt statutes in conformity with the FIFA standard statutes before organizing new elections in the first half of 2014," it said in a statement on Friday.
"In the meantime, the outgoing executive committee will be in charge of managing the FRMF."
Morocco will host the World Club Cup this year, using stadiums in Marrakech and Agadir, and will also hold the African Nations Cup in 2015.
"The aforementioned decision will not have any effect on the organization of the FIFA Club World Cup that is due to take place in Morocco from 11 to 21 December 2013," said FIFA.
Morocco's national team, once considered one of the strongest in Africa, has fallen on hard times. The Atlas Lions, who took part in three out of four World Cups between 1986 and 1998, have not qualified since that run.
In the African Nations Cup, they have been knocked out in the first round on their last four appearances and failed to qualify at all in 2010.
Morocco have made four unsuccessful bids to host the World Cup in 1994, 1998, 2006 and 2010.
By The Atlas Lions, 14-Nov-2013 13:22:00
Stoke City manager Mark Hughes has identified Granada striker Youssef El-Arabi as the ideal candidate to end the clubs goal scoring woes.
The Moroccan international was on the Potters’ radar when Tony Pulis was in charge of the club in 2011 and the former Stoke boss went of several scouting missions in pursuit of his signature.
However interest cooled but now Hughes has identified the 26-year-old as the key man to lead the line according to the Daily Mail.
By The Atlas Lions, 11-Nov-2013 12:48:00
(TheAtlasLions.com) Moroccan royal football federation FRMF has elected a new president Mr. Faouzi Lekjaa while Dutch Pim Verbeek could be the new Morocco National Team coach.
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