• WC 2018: Da Costa, the Moroccan lion of Portuguese origin

    (FIFA.com) It is often said that one's country is akin to one's mother, and this is certainly the case for Manuel da Costa. The 32-year-old opted to play for Morocco, the country of his mother’s birth, after earlier representing the youth teams of his father's homeland, Portugal. Now, as fate would have it, the international defender will face Portugal at his first FIFA World Cup™.

    Despite his Portuguese roots, Da Costa told FIFA.com in an exclusive interview that he is proud to represent Morocco at Russia 2018. He also revealed that sentiments in his family would be mixed when the two teams square off at the Luzhniki Stadium on Wednesday - but only for one day.

    "Participating in a World Cup is something huge for me, as I’m representing my country and my roots," said the French-born player. "It's a big honour to wear the Moroccan shirt because, when you participate in this tournament, you are showcasing your country and culture to the world."

    Da Costa, who lined up for the Atlas Lions for the first time in 2014, added: "I was first approached about playing for Morocco by [assistant coach] Mustapha Hadji. After a long discussion with him and the then coach Badou Ezzaki, I was convinced of Morocco's plan and objectives, and since then have had the honour of representing the country."

    Yesterday's team-mates, today's opponents

    Naturally, Manuel da Costa knows a lot about the way Portugal play, especially since some of the current squad were once his team-mates.

    "I played with most of the players when I was young – it would take too long to name them all! However, I remember playing alongside Ricardo Quaresma, Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe and learned a great deal from them."

    The Istanbul Basaksehir player also knows just how strong Portugal are.

    "They’re one of the best in the world, but we won’t focus only on Ronaldo." he said. "We know he’s excellent and surrounded by good players. What’s more important for us, however, is to be focused, precise and have complete solidarity."

    While unity and solidarity will be the Atlas Lions’ watchwords on Wednesday when they attempt to overcome Portugal, feelings will be mixed that day in the Da Costa household.

    "I expect half of my family will support Portugal and the other half Morocco – which will be kind of funny really," he concluded.

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  • World Cup Preview: Portugal vs Morocco - Recent Form, Predictions, Team News & More

    Portugal face off against Morocco at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium on Wednesday in Group B's second round of games.

    Portugal will be looking to build on the impressive performance which secured them a valuable point against favourites Spain in their World Cup opener. Cristiano Ronaldo once again showcased his quality and importance to the national side, scoring all three of Portugal's goals in the 3-3 draw.

    Morocco, on the other hand, suffered late heartbreak against Iran in their opening fixture of the tournament. The Lions of the Atlas were the better team for much of the game, but Aziz Bouhaddouz's unfortunate own goal seconds from time meant they left Saint Petersburg with no points. Consequently, Hervé Renard's side will need to beat Portugal in order to stand a chance of progressing to the next round.

    Classic Encounter:

    Portugal and Morocco have met once before back in the 1986 Mexico World Cup.

    The Moroccans were drawn into Group F along with Poland, England and Portugal and, unsurprisingly, they weren't expected to last too long in the competition.

    Nevertheless, two impressive performances against England and Poland had secured them a respectable two points, and they headed into the game against Portugal knowing that a victory would guarantee them a place in the next round.

    Abderrazak Khairi gave Morocco the lead in the 18th minute with a superb 25-yard strike. Just ten minutes later, Khairi was at it again, volleying in a cross from 12 yards out. Amazingly, Morocco continued to dominate and Abdelkrim Merry made it 3-0 in the 60th minute, finishing off a fine flowing move with an equally impressive finish.

    Portugal did get a goal back through Diamantino Miranda in the 80th minute, but it was too little too late and Morocco ran out deserved 3-1 victors to top the group ahead of England.

    Morocco were eventually beaten 1-0 by West Germany in the round of 16.

    Form:

    Recorded last six games:

    Portugal: DWDDLW

    Morocco: LWWDWW

    Team News:

    Both managers will have their whole 23-man squads to pick from with neither side suffering any injuries nor suspensions in their opening games.

    Predicted Lineups:

    Portugal (4-4-2): Patricio; Guerreiro, Fonte, Pepe, Soares; Silva, Moutinho, Carvalho, Fernandes; Silva, Ronaldo

    Morocco (4-2-3-1): Mohamedi; Amrabat, Benatia, Saiss, Hakimi; Boussoufa, Ahmadi; Zlyech, Belhanda, Harit, Kaabi

    Prediction:

    Portugal aren't necessarily a one man team but they are heavily reliant on Cristiano Ronaldo, who isn't immune to having an off day. If Ronaldo performs against Morocco like he did against Spain, his side will stand a great chance of winning.

    Prediction: Portugal 2-1 Morocco

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  • WC 2018: FIFA Writes Letter to FRMF after ‘Shocking’ Medical Treatment of Amrabat

    By Morocco World News

    Rabat – FIFA did not agree with the Moroccan medical staff’s handling of Nordin Amrabat’s injury and has decided to let it be known.

    According to Dutch outlet NOS, the President of the UEFA Medical Committee and member of the FIFA Council, Michel D’Hooghe, has decided to send a letter to the FRMF to express his shock regarding Moroccan medical procedures.

    During the June 15 match that pitted Morocco against Iran in a (1-0) loss, the Moroccan football player left play at the 76th minute after a shock to the head with an Iranian player that left him nearly unconscious.

    Quickly, the medical staff rushed to his assistance. Attempting to keep him awake, they slapped and sprinkled him with water. The actions displeased many on social media, and especially abroad several foreign medias were quick to denounce “the odd method of giving slaps.”

    Speaking with Dutch media, Michel D’Hooghe, expressed outrage when asked about Amrabat’s treatment. “We were shocked when we saw the images and have no understanding of the doctor’s attitude. During a team workshop prior to the World Cup, we gave extensive explanation to the team doctors how to treat a concussion. We immediately wrote a letter to the Moroccans.”

    Last Saturday, the doctor of the national team said that Amrabat should “stop training for a week”. However, as shown in pictures by the Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF), it appears that the midfielder is feeling fine and continuing training.

    According to the national team doctor, Amrabat should still miss the next match of the Atlas Lions against Portugal Wednesday, June 24.

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  • WC 2018: MLS-based referee crew selected for Portugal-Morocco World Cup match

    Three of the five MLS-based referees at the 2018 World Cup in Russia have been selected to officiate the Portugal vs. Morocco match at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, FIFA announced on Monday.

    Referee designations FWC 2018 Match 18: #POR⁠ ⁠🆚#MAR⁠ (20 June):

    Referee: Mark GEIGER (USA)

    ASR 1: Joe FLETCHER (CAN)

    ASR 2: Frank ANDERSON (USA)

    4th Off. Sergey KARASEV (RUS)

    Res.Ass: Anton AVERIANOV (RUS)@FIFAWorldCup pic.twitter.com/1FOeenXDUt

    — FIFA Media (@fifamedia) June 18, 2018

    The PRO (Professional Referee Organization) delegation is led by veteran MLS ref Mark Geiger (USA) and also includes assistant referees Joe Fletcher (Canada) and Frank Anderson (USA), with two Russian officials on fourth official and VAR duty.

    https://www.mlssoccer.com/post/2018/06/18/mls-based-referee-crew-selected-portugal-morocco-world-cup-match

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  • WC 2018: Portugal v Morocco factbox

    (Reuters) - Portugal play Morocco in a World Cup Group B match on Wednesday:

    Where: Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow

    Capacity: 80,000

    When: Wednesday June 20, 15:00 local (1200 GMT/0800 ET)

    Key stats:

    * Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo's hat-trick in the 3-3 draw against Spain took his tally for Portugal to 84 goals in 151 international appearances.

    * Portugal have lost one out of 25 competitive internationals since Fernando Santos took over as coach in September 2014.

    * Portugal's two central defenders in the match against Spain, Jose Fonte and Pepe, have a combined age of 69. Bruno Alves, their other main option in that position, is 36.

    * Morocco are taking part at their fifth World Cup. They got past the group stage once, in 1986, before losing in the second round to West Germany.

    * Because of a single appearance for Spain against Macedonia in 2014, when he played less than 15 minutes, forward Munir El Haddadi is unable to play for Morocco. FIFA rules bar players from changing allegiance once they have taken part in a competitive international.

    Previous meetings: The two sides have met once before in the 1986 World Cup, with Morocco winning 3-1.

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  • Faycal Fajr: ‘Moroccan Football Team Is Not Dead’

    Morocco World News

    Rabat – While several Moroccan football fans predict a loss against Portugal on Wednesday’s 2018 World Cup game, Moroccan footballer Faycal Fajr is keeping his finger crossed, confident that the Atlas Lions can beat Cristiano Ronaldo’s squad on June 20.

    During a press conference held in Moscow yesterday, Fajr promised to bring the smile back to Moroccan football fans. “We know it will be difficult, but we will do everything to make a good result,” he said.

    Fajr expressed confidence, emphasizing that he played for “3 or 4 years against Cristiano.”

    “He is a phenomenal player but we can annoy him…. how? by defending well!” Fajr told reporters.

    “I am not going to talk about all Portuguese players. We also have good players and we will do everything to upset them! Achraf Hakimi knows Cristiano well, he will tell us about him,” he added.

    Fajr did not play in Morocco’s first 2018 World Cup game against Iran. Morocco lost to Iran 1-0 due to an own goal scored by Aziz Bouhaddouz during the extra time of the second half on Friday.

    Commenting on the game against Iran, Fajr said “we have started the game well, but we did not seize the opportunities.”

    When asked about Morocco’s chances to qualify for the next phase, Fajr said that “We believe it anyway! If I tell you that I do not believe it, what are you going to say? We are not dead, we only want to go back in this game!”

    He added that “We are a country that lives for football,” emphasizing that the team wants to bring happiness back to football fans.

    “We know it will be difficult, but we will do everything to make a good result!” he added.

    Group B, which is referred to as the deadliest group in the 2018 World Cup, opened up their games on Friday. The first game was played between Iran and Morocco, while the second game was between Spain and Portugal.

    The Spanish and Portuguese teams delivered a magnificent spectacle, finishing with a 3-3 tie. Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick for his team during the game.

    Morocco will play against Portugal on June 20, while the third game will be against Spain on June 25.

    Read more...
  • Predictions: Morocco vs. Portugal

    By Morocco World News -

    Rabat – Morocco will have had to recover quickly from their painful loss against Iran as they prepare to face Portugal and superstar forward Cristiano Ronaldo.

    Wednesday’s match will represent the second time these two teams have met on the international stage. The last match took place at the 1986 World Cup, which witnessed Abdelrazze Khairi’s two goals help Morocco to a 3-1 victory.

    For many years, Portugal has been seen as underdogs, but they head into this major tournament as the reigning 2016 European Champions.

    Their performance against Spain on Friday has further prompted the theory that they are likely to take the victory against Morocco this Wednesday.

    The 33-year-old star player Ronaldo arrived to Russia knowing that time is running out, and his performance against Spain represents his desire to win the 2018 World Cup for Portugal.

    The superstar took a sensational, late free-kick that tied the game against Spain on Friday. Ronaldo’s essential performance portrays that Portugal will potentially have a long-run in this year’s World Cup.

    Morocco began the tournament knowing that they would probably need a victory over Iran to have any realistic chance of advancing past the group stage.

    However, the 95th-minute self-inflicted goal from Aziz Bouhaddouz, who gifted Iran all three points from the match in St. Petersburg. Now, Morocco is left having to pull off the seemingly improbable to earn a spot in the knockout stages.

    The African nation is staying positive and holds a desire to impress Portugal and Spain, but they must pull off two astonishing World Cup performances to remain in this competition.

    In terms of possession, Morocco was dominant on Friday’s match against Iran, but Renard needs his team to execute more shots on goal.

    Juventus centre-back, Medhi Benatia, played outstandingly against Iran and the 31-year-old will be called upon again to deliver a captain’s performance against Ronaldo. Meanwhile, young full-back Achraf Hakimi will enjoy the chance to try to nullify the threat offered by his Real Madrid teammate.

    After losing the bid to host the 2026 World Cup, it has been a rough few days for Morocco, but this is a squad that still holds little hope of advancing past the group stage.

    There have already been predictions on the starting lineup for each team:

    Portugal possible starting lineup: Patricio; Soares, Pepe, Fonte, Guerreiro; Carvalho, Moutinho, Mario; B.Silva, Guedes; Ronaldo

    Morocco possible starting lineup: Munir; S.Amrabat, Benatia, Saiss, Achraf; El Ahmadi; Belhanda, Harit, Boussoufa, Ziyech; El Kaabi

    FIFA World Cup predictions have been posted: 58 percent foresee a Portuguese victory, 16 percent with Morocco, and 26% have predicted that the match will end in a draw.

    Morocco will face Portugal on Wednesday, June 20 in Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium.

    Read more...
  • Mor vs Por: Portugal 'stronger than Morocco', says Andre Silva

    AFP

    Portugal striker Andre Silva believes the European champions are well equipped to beat Morocco ahead of their upcoming World Cup group stage clash in Moscow.

    "I think we are stronger than Morocco if we compare the two teams, but I'm not saying the game will be easy for us," Silva told reporters at Portugal's team base on Monday.

    "We cannot underestimate them and must have respect for any opponent. Any game at the World Cup is difficult."

    Silva came on as a late substitute in Portugal's 3-3 draw against Spain in their opening game in Group B, while a late own goal condemned Morocco to a heartbreaking 1-0 defeat by Iran.

    "They lost their first game but it happens and now they will focus on winning and will try their best," the AC Milan forward said.

    "They're used to playing against European teams and will do their all to get this victory."

    He added: "There are no favourites. Morocco have excellent players and the result of their game against Iran could have been different."

    Cristiano Ronaldo has tipped the 22-year-old Silva, who moved to Milan from Porto last year, as his long-term successor in the Portugal team.

    "As I've said it's a big honour to play with him, he's the best footballer in the world," said Silva, who has scored an impressive 12 goals in 24 international appearances.

    "I'm very happy to be on the same team with him.

    "When he needs me to do something I'm always where he needs me to be. And when I need him he's always by my side. We always try to work together and in combination."

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  • Mor vs Por: Portugal will not underestimate Morocco, vows Adrien Silva

    Portugal midfielder Adrien Silva is expecting a tough test against Morocco as he revealed coach Fernando Santos is constantly demanding more from the European champions.

    Cristiano Ronaldo stole the show with a stunning hat-trick in Portugal's Group B opener with Spain on Friday, securing a share of the spoils from a fantastic encounter in Sochi.

    Leicester City midfielder Silva did not make an appearance from the bench, although Santos could well rotate his players for Wednesday's meeting with Morocco, who slumped to a 1-0 defeat to Iran in their opening fixture.

    And the 29-year-old insists Portugal will not take their opposition lightly, with Santos instilling a winning mentality.

    "The coach is never satisfied, he wants evolution," Silva told reporters. "We are never satisfied.

    "We are focused on analysing and surpassing the Morocco team. In my opinion, Morocco deserved to have won the game with Iran.

    "There are no easy games. We played against a great favourite, we have also created difficulties for our opponents. It was a positive result, but we didn't want a tie."

    Silva joined Premier League club Leicester in August 2017, although did not register in time to be able to take part in the first half of last season.

    Prior to that move, Silva spent 10 years in Sporting CP's senior set-up, and former club-mates Rui Patricio, William Carvalho, Gelson Martins and Bruno Fernandes are all part of Portugal's squad.

    All four players are currently involved in contractual disputes with the club following an attack on Sporting's training ground by a section of the Lisbon side's supporters, and look likely to leave before the start of next season, but Silva claims the group have not been affected by the situation.

    "They showed that they were perfectly in a position to play," Silva added.

    "They saw each other during the game, they do not even talk [about Sporting] at the moment, they are perfectly fine, they will have a great tournament."

    https://www.aol.co.uk/sport/2018/06/17/portugal-will-not-underestimate-morocco-vows-adrien-silva/?guccounter=1

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  • WC 2018: Amrabat out for one week, will miss Morocco-Portugal match

    MOSCOW, June 17 (Xinhua) -- Morocco have confirmed Sunday that winger Nordin Amrabat has been allowed out of hospital after suffering concussion during their opening World Cup Group B game against Iran.

    Amrabat, who played for Spanish club Leganes last season, was injured in a clash of heads with Iranian midfielder Vahid Amiri during the 1-0 defeat on Friday in Saint Petersburg and had to be taken to hospital.

    He spent Friday night under observation but was discharged on Saturday and returned to Morocco's training camp in Voronezh.

    However, the Royal Moroccan Football Federation has issued a statement saying he will not be able to play for at least one week, meaning he is certain to miss Wednesday's game against Portugal in the Luzhniki Stadium and is doubtful to appear against Spain in the final group match in Kaliningrad on June 25th.

    The defeat to Iran in the opening game means that Morocco need to achieve at least a draw against Portugal on Wednesday to keep alive their hopes of progressing to the last 16.

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