• 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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


    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."

  • 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."


  • 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.

  • WC 2018: Nordin Amrabat’s Head Injury Not Concerning, Says Medical Staff

    (Morocco World News) Rabat – Moroccan football star Nordin Amrabat is expected to join his fellow teammates in the training field within a week, according to his doctor, who said that Amrabat’s health condition is “stable.”

    Amrabat suffered a head injury in the 76th minute of the Moroccan national team’s first game of the 2018 World Cup. He lost consciousness for several minutes following the blow to his head. The team’s medical staff rushed Amrabat off the field, slapping him repeatedly and spraying his face with water once he was safely on the sidelines.

    The footballer then was transferred to a hospital in St. Petersburg for a medical examination. Scanner tests revealed that his condition was not critical. The footballer left the hospital this Saturday.

    “The health of the player is stable and does not cause concern. He will leave the hospital on Saturday,” national football team doctor Abderazzak Hifti.

    Amrabat, however, will take a week-long break from training and will sit out the Morocco-Portugal game on June 20.

    Morocco lost against Iran at its first 2018 World Cup game after Moroccan footballer Aziz Bouhaddouz mistakenly scored an own-goal in the extra time of the second half.

    Morocco will play its second match against Portugal on June 20, while its third game will be played against Spain on June 25.

    Group B’s second game, which pitted Portugal and Spain against each other, wowed football fans as both teams delivered excellent performances. Portugal’s superstar Cristiano Ronaldo scored a stunning last-minute free kick, while Spain excelled at blocking Ronaldo’s attempts on goal. The two European giants tied 3-3 yesterday in their first 2018 World Cup game in Sochi’s Fisht stadium.

  • WC 2018: Teary-Eyed Aziz Bouhaddouz Apologizes to Moroccan Fans After Scoring Own-Goal

    (Morocco World News) Rabat – Moroccan international footballer Aziz Bouhaddouz issued an apology to Moroccan football fans after scoring an own-goal at Morocco’s first 2018 World Cup game against Iran on Friday.

    Bouhaddouz entered the game in the 76th minute after Morocco’s head coach Hervé Renard called for an exchange. In the stoppage time, Bouhaddouz mistakenly scored against his team, which made him leave the St. Petersburg stadium in tears.

    Apologizing to his fans, Bouhaddouz said, “I am an idiot, but I will handle this situation because I have been playing this sport for years.”

    He told French news outlet L’Equipe that the game “was difficult for all players. We started the game well, but we did not seize the opportunities.”

    He added that the situation was difficult, stating, “It is something that can happen in football, and I am paying for it today. I apologize to the team, the fans and all 35 million Moroccans.”

    Many football fans – among them a number of Moroccan celebrities – showed support for Bouhaddouz after the game.

    One such supportive fan was the diva Latifa Raafat, who took to Facebook, where she published the following message for Bouhaddouz:

    “Keep your head up my brother, Moroccan men’s tears are very expensive. Mistakes happen. It is enough that you prove to the world that you have played well.”

    Football fans, footballers and Renard all felt disappointed following the loss in Morocco’s first game of the 2018 World Cup, especially as they were expecting a win against Iran. However, the coach expressed hope in a post-match conference, saying that the team will focus on their second game with Portugal.

    Moroccan midfielder Amine Harit, who was called the man of the game, also said that the Moroccan football team should forget the defeat and focus on its two upcoming games against Portugal and Spain.

    Morocco will play its second game against Portugal on June 20 in Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium. The team’s last game of this round will be against Spain on June 25 in Kaliningrad Stadium.

  • WC 2018: Nordin Amrabat out against Portugal

    (TheAtlasLions.com) Morocco international Nordin Amrabat will miss out the crucial clash against Portugal on Wednesday through concussion he sustained during yesterday's match against Iran.

  • WC 2018: Morocco Loses 1st 2018 World Cup Against Iran with Own Goal

    (Morocco World News) Rabat – Morocco’s Atlas Lions lost their first 2018 World Cup game against Iran 1-0 in Saint Petersburg on Friday.

    Aziz Bouhaddouz, who entered the game in the 76th minute, scored against his team after a free kick granted to Iran in the extra time of the second half.

    Morocco’s football team had been the better side throughout the game as the team dominated the first half with 69 percent of ball possession against 31 percent for Iran.

    Moroccan midfielders Amine Harit and Younes Belhanda delivered an excellent defensive role, with both Ayoub El Kaabi and Harit ready to score against their first rival.

    Morocco missed several golden opportunities to make a goal in the first half but they were stopped by Iran’s competent goalie, which led them to increase their efforts in the second half.

    Iran relied on counter attacks during the game, but finally won in over-time with Bouhaddouz’ accidental header.

    Moroccan star Nordin Amrabat left the field in the 73rd minute, to be replaced by his brother Sofyan Amrabat.

    Morocco’s coach Hervé Renard also made a change in the 76th minute of the game, exchanging forward El Kaabi with Aziz Bouhaddouz, a choice that will long haunt him.

    Manuel de Costa was the final change for Morocco when midfielder Harit left the green arena.

    The game was attended by hundreds of Moroccan football fans, who followed their team to Russia. Before the game, Morocco’s football fans sang along with Moroccan footballers the national anthem passionately.

    Morocco and Iran opened the 2018 World Cup’s deadly group, Group B, of the 2018.

    The second game of the group will between Spain and Portugal at 6:00 p.m (Moroccan time). Morocco plays its next game against Portugal Wednesday, June 20.


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