By The Atlas Lions, 11-Dec-2013 21:40:00
(FIFA.com) Raja Club Athletic (MAR) treated a packed Agadir Stadium to a confident 2-1 display against OFC representatives Auckland City FC (NZL) in the opening match of the 2013 FIFA Club World Cup Morocco.
The two sides had never met before, and it was the first time Raja Casablanca had faced opponents from Oceania, while Auckland City had their best result against an African opponent at a Club World Cup in a 3-2 victory over TP Mazembe in the 2009 fifth place play-off.
The Moroccan national league holders had the first chance in the seventh minute of the match when Raja captain Mohsine Moutaouali crossed from the right to the far post where Adil Karrouchy volleyed his shot over the bar from close range.
Supported by their passionate home crowd, Raja came close in the 22nd minute when Moutaouali threaded a beautiful through ball to Mouhssine Iajour who was denied by Auckland goalkeeper Tamati Williams inside the box, who saved with his leg.
Raja dominated possession for the majority of the first half, but Auckland were able to break in the 29th minute when Roy Krishna had his shot blocked.
The deadlock was broken when Karrouchy found Iajour in the box who slotted his left-foot shot into the far corner past Williams to send Agadir into a frenzy.
The hosts brought their momentum from the first half into the second as Moutaouali curled a shot from the left edge of the box only to be denied by the post.
Auckland asserted themselves on the attack when Christopher Bale shot wide from 16 metres out.
The Agadir Stadium turned quiet when Mohamed Oulhaj and Ismail Benlamalem ran into each other, failing to clear effectively, leaving Fijian Krishna an open path to score the equaliser past Khalid Askri.
After Krishna's equaliser, Raja continued to attack when clever passing between Moutaouali and Abdelilah Hafidi led to a pass for Kuoko Guehi who had hist shot blocked by John Irving in the 77th minute.
The tie looked to be heading into extra time when Karrouchy crossed from the goalline to find Oulhaj whose headed shot was initially saved by Williams only to fall to the feet of Hafidi who tapped in the rebound to send Agadir Stadium into delirium.
The Moroccans will now face CF Monterrey (MEX) in the quarter-finals in Agadir on 14 December.
By The Atlas Lions, 11-Dec-2013 08:50:00
(FIFA.com) While it is difficult to pinpoint precisely, football’s first appearance in Morocco dates back to 1913 and the formation of three clubs in particular, Union Sportive Marocaine, Stade Marocain and Sporting Club des Roches Noires. What better way for the North African nation to mark the centenary of the sport’s emergence than to stage the FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2013?
With the kick-off to the event’s curtain-raiser between local favourites Raja Casablanca and New Zealanders Auckland City FC fast approaching, FIFA.com takes a look back at three players – Mohamed Timoumi, Badou Zaki and Mustapha Hadji – who became national idols in Morocco, the birthplace of legendary French internationals such as Larbi Ben Barek and Just Fontaine.
All those who had the chance to watch Mohamed Timoumi play are likely to remember an elegant and gifted performer who was capable of combining impressive dribbling skills with perfect passes and unstoppable shots.
Born in Rabat in 1960, he was spotted in his late teens by Union de Touarga, where he established himself as an outstanding playmaker, to the extent that he was called up for his country at youth level and then for the senior Moroccan side, before he had even turned 20.
His attributes attracted the interest of numerous big-name teams, but it was FAR Rabat who won the race for his signature in 1984.
After joining the side from the capital, Timoumi grew in stature and inspired his team-mates to great success, lifting three consecutive national cups between 1984 and 1986 and the African Cup of Champions Clubs in 1985, the first time a Moroccan club had achieved such a feat in ten years.
The attacking midfielder also received individual recognition, scooping the African Footballer of the Year award the same year, in a first for Moroccan football since Ahmed Faras ten years earlier.
Tempting offers came his way from Europe, but FAR Rabat were understandably hesitant to let such a valuable asset depart.
“If he leaves Morocco, it should be to join a big club,” said Jose Faria, the Brazilian who coached Timouni at club and international level. “You can just imagine what kind of damage he could cause if he lined up alongside a player like Emilio Butragueno.”
Timouni became known to a much wider audience at the 1986 FIFA World Cup Mexico™, where he propelled Morocco to the top of their group, as they secured two 0-0 draws with Poland and England, as well as an unforgettable 3-1 victory over Portugal.
Despite their creative fulcrum’s immense talent, the Atlas Lions – the first African or Arab team to advance past the group stage of the World Cup – were defeated by Germany in the Round of 16, Lothar Matthaus’ late free-kick doing the damage and ending their hopes.
Decades after that memorable adventure, Timoumi continues to focus on the development of the Moroccan game. “I still haven’t given up on the idea of converting from a player to a coach,” he said in 2006. “What I’d most love to do is give youngsters the benefit of my experience.”
Morocco were captained by goalkeeper Badou Zaki at Mexico 1986. Instrumental in the two scoreless stalemates recorded during the group phase, he kept at bay the attempts of England’s Gary Lineker, Bryan Robson and Chris Waddle, as well as Poland’s Zbigniew Boniek.
Agility and reflexes were just two facets of his game that saw him recognised as the best African shot-stopper of his era. While African Footballer of the Year was an accolade generally bestowed upon more attack-minded players, the 1986 award went to Zaki, the second year in a row that a Moroccan had finished top of the voting.
Zaki would go on to confirm his newfound status by subsequently signing for Mallorca. In three seasons with Los Bermellones, he was handed the captain’s armband and awarded the (Spanish second division's) Zamora Trophy, earned by the goalkeeper with the lowest goals-to-games ratio each year.
The African custodian had come a long way from his humble beginnings at AS Sale in 1976, where his good form landed him a move to Wydad Casablanca, with whom he clinched two Moroccan League titles (in 1979 and 1986) and two Moroccan Cups (in 1979 and 1981).
Returning to his homeland in 1992, he brought the curtain down on his playing career at FUS Rabat prior to turning his hand to coaching.
“Each has its plus points,” the former custodian told FIFA.com recently. “I enjoyed myself enormously as a young player, but the older and more experienced you get, the more you enjoy coaching, being part of a group, dealing with pressure, and taking on challenges. Even though my job sometimes keeps me up at night, I’m still happy.”
Happiness at reaching the World Cup was an emotion that Morocco’s fans and players did not feel again until 1994. During the final matchday of the African qualifying campaign, the Atlas Lions trailed Zambia by a point, and needed to beat their Group B rivals to book a ticket to the USA.
They accomplished just that via a goal from Abdeslam Laghrissi, but the match was also notable for the international debut of Mustapha Hadji, who became an instant fans’ favourite by putting in a sparkling performance in Casablanca.
At the final whistle, the name of the young attacking midfielder, who had turned down a call-up to France’s U-21 team in favour of the land of his birth, was joyously chanted by the entire stadium.
“It’s the greatest memory of my career,” he said. “I fulfilled a dream I’d had since I was a child. I’ve experienced some unforgettable moments playing for Morocco, but 10 October 1993 will forever be imprinted on my mind. That was the day I was adopted by an exceptional country and its people.”
Then at French outfit Nancy, Hadji would go on to star for Sporting Lisbon, Deportivo La Coruna, Aston Villa and Espanyol, each time leaving an extremely positive impression courtesy of his exemplary behaviour and exceptional skills.
Those same qualities saw him develop into one of the first names on the teamsheet for the Moroccan national side, with which he enjoyed two of his finest moments in 1998.
The first came at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations in Burkina Faso, when the unpredictable midfield man scored a remarkable last-minute overhead kick to beat Egypt in the group stage. The second occurred later that year, when he notched another marvellous goal against Norway at the World Cup in France.
That strike and his fine all-round displays played a large part in Hadji following in the footsteps of Timoumi and Zaki by being named African Footballer of the Year for 1998 – the last Moroccan winner of the award to date.
By The Atlas Lions, 10-Dec-2013 16:42:00
(FIFA.com) Raja Club Athletic take on Auckland City FC in their opening match at the FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2013 on Wednesday, an occasion on which they will be looking to centre-half Mohamed Oulhaj to reproduce the kind of performances that helped the Green Eagles win this year’s Moroccan league title.
It came as no surprise when, on the back of those displays, Morocco’s national team coach Rachid Taoussi called the 25-year-old stopper up for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ qualifiers, handing him a start in the 1-1 draw with Côte d’Ivoire in September. Oulhaj made more appearances in all competitions for his club last season that any of his team-mates, an indication in itself of his consistency and dependability.
Speaking exclusively to FIFA.com, he discussed his side’s Club World Cup chances and said he believed they have the experience to acquit themselves well, despite their pre-tournament status of underdogs.
“We know that this is a major international competition and that all the teams we’re up against have won continental tournaments,” he said, pointing out the size of the task faced by Raja Casablanca, who will be making their second Club World Cup appearance, 13 years after their first. “We will be representing the host nation and we are the weakest team on paper, though that doesn’t mean to say that we will be happy just to make up the numbers. We’re here to get the best results we can.”
Named in the Moroccan league’s all-star team last season, Oulhaj added: “Everyone in the side wants to play at international level and I think we are capable of going far in the competition. We are the league champions of Morocco, we won the Cup and we’ve got quite a few young players in the team. There is no reason why Raja Casablanca should fear anyone.”
Confident he may be, but Oulhaj is also realistic: “We also need to be aware of our limitations,” he added.
Yet though quarter-final opponents Auckland City have a certain amount of Club World Cup experience under their belt, the young central defender said his side have what it takes to beat them: “There are no weak or inexperienced teams in this competition. Auckland City have taken part in it a few times and they’ve had some good results.
"We’ll be doing all we can to win this match, and if we do, it will get us right in the swing of things. Any other result would be a disappointment for the Morocco fans, who have had their fill of losing.”
Warming to his theme, he added: “We are going to be watching videos of Auckland City over the next few days so we can identify their strengths and weaknesses. We really want to get over this first hurdle.”
As he went on to explain, the fans will be crucial in helping Raja Casablanca fulfil their goals at Morocco 2013, which ultimately include a place in the final: “Our supporters are going to make the difference in this competition. We are representing the Moroccan people as a whole and the fans will be right behind us. This is the first time that we are hosting this competition.”
Oulhaj added: “We are going to take each match as it comes. If we beat Auckland City, we’ll face on Mexico’s Monterrey in our next game. It would be a first for our club, and the players will be giving their all to make the next round. It would be mission accomplished for us if we can do that.”
The Green Eagles have been meticulous with their preparations for the tournament, having played a number of friendlies with European clubs over the last couple of years, a build-up that Oulhaj believes will give them an advantage when the action starts. He said: “The high-level friendlies we’ve played against big European teams have given us a very good idea of how the team is performing.”
Known for his composure and sportsmanship, the Morocco defender said: “We’ve played Nice, Athletic Bilbao, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and a few Hungarian teams and those games have been really useful for us. We’ve learned a lot and I’m sure the experience we picked up in those matches will stand us in good stead at the Club World Cup.”
Oulhaj knows he can expect a major test of his skills over the next few days, especially if his side make it to the business end of the tournament: “It’s a great honour to compete against star players and it will be a chance for me to raise my game. The experience will be useful for both my club and international career.”
Rounding off our chat, he said: “You have to be aware of what they’re capable of, but you can never predict what’s going to happen in football. We want to win the lot this year and the Club World Cup is among our objectives.”
By The Atlas Lions, 10-Dec-2013 16:38:00
Morocco’s Raja Club Athletic and New Zealand side Auckland City FC kick off the FIFA Club World Cup 2013 this Wednesday gunning for a victory that would be a twofold boon. For both clubs, a win would be a huge confidence booster and would break a run of poor results both in their domestic leagues and in this competition.
Raja Casablanca-Auckland City, Agadir Stadium,
Wednesday 11 December, 19.30 (local time)
Getting back to winning ways after a month of disappointment is the mission for Raja Casablanca in the tournament hosted in their own county. The Moroccan champions are seeking to bounce back from a string of defeats that triggered the dismissal of coach Mohamed Fakhir, the man who had led the team to the domestic title. Making progress in the competition would give one of Morocco’s most historical clubs, who are taking part in the Club World Cup for the second time, an enormous lift. It would also be welcome news for a country that has been starved of success in international football competitions in recent times.
It’s a similar story for Auckland City. Despite being top of the New Zealand championship, the team arrives in Morocco hoping to wipe out the memory of three opening-game eliminations at previous Club World Cups (2006, 2011 and 2012). It goes without saying Auckland would like to repeat their 2009 effort, when they won two matches in the United Arab Emirates. Putting on a good show in a country where the fans are fanatical about their football is good motivation for Ramon Tribulietx’s charges. The coach is still trying to hit upon the right formula following the recent departure of key players such as Albert Riera and Manel Exposito.
2 – Auckland City and Raja Casablanca have taken part in six FIFA Club World Cups between them, but have clocked up just two victories in ten matches. Both came in 2009, when the New Zealanders achieved a historic fifth place. The Moroccans took part in the 2000 tournament, losing all three of their games.
“Auckland City have played in this competition several times and have achieved some good results. We’ll be giving it our all to win. Anything but victory would be a huge disappointment for the Moroccan people, who are fed up with defeats. We have our hearts set on overcoming this first hurdle,” Raja Casablanca defender Mohamed Oulhaj.
“We’ll be playing in a football-mad country. The atmosphere will be amazing and we need to be at the top of our game. Raja are one of Africa’s most historical clubs and have been national champions many times. We have to enjoy the experience, but we want to be competitive and play well,” Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx.
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?
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