• World Cup 2026: Morocco remain in the frame for 2026 World Cup bid, perhaps jointly with Ivory Coast

    By Andrew Warshaw

    Morocco has not ruled out bidding for the 2026 World Cup with a fellow African nation – or two – now that it has been made clear that Europe will not be allowed to bid.

    For months, speculation was rife that Morocco, which has failed four times to try and host the tournament, could launch a challenge to CONCACAF in partnership with Iberian neighbours Spain and Portugal who themselves failed to land 2018.

    But under FIFA rules, the two previous host confederations – in this case Europe in 2018 and Asia in 2022 – are barred from bidding for 2026.

    That means only countries from Oceania, Africa and South America could challenge North America – and with Oceania and South America having already endorsed the North American bid, that leaves only Africa.

    Morocco’s hopes were given a timely boost by FIFA’s decision earlier this month to turn down a proposal that would have handed the US-led bid exclusivity, with other candidates now given until August to present rival expressions of interest.

    In theory that opens up the possibility of a challenge to the United States, Canada and Mexico coalition that is pushing ahead with a three-nation bid. But to stand even a remote chance, Morocco would have to co-host with at least one other African nation – Ivory Coast has been mooted – in order to accommodate 48 nations under the expanded format which comes into effect in 2026.

    Morocco’s federation president Fouzi Lekjaa has given a somewhat cryptic hint that this could happen.

    “We will make a decision when we have all the elements at our disposal,” said Lekjaa. “We will see. We are from Africa, not Europe. We are a big continent.”


  • Italy: Mehdi Benatia crowned Italian Serie A champion with Juventus

    Juventus made history on Sunday, defeating Crotone 3-0 to become the first club to win Serie A for a six consecutive season.

  • Transfers: Abderrazak Hamdallah joins Al-Rayyan

    (TheAtlasLions.com) Morocco international striker Abderrazak Hamdallah has signed a two-year deal with Qatari outfit Al-Rayyan.

  • NT: Hakim Ziyech "says" no to Morocco call up

    (TheAtlasLions.com) Ajax Amsterdam forward Hakim Ziyech has rejected Morocco call up for the friendly against The Netherlands on May 31st and for the AFCON 2019 qualifier against Cameroon on June 10th reported Dutch media on Friday.


  • NT: Morocco squad list vs Netherlands and Cameroon

    (TheAtlasLions.com) Morocco coach Herve Renard has revealed his final selection for the friendly against Netherlands on May 31st and for the AFCON 2019 qualifier against Cameroon on June 10th.

    Here is the list:

    1-El Kajoui Munir ( Numencia )

    2-Bonou Yassine ( Gijon )

    3-El Kharroubi Yassine ( Locomotiv Plovdiv )

    4-Da Costa Marouan ( olympiakos )

    5-Dirar Nabil ( Monaco )

    6-Saiss Romain ( Wolverhampton )

    7-El Kaoutari Abdelhamid ( Bastia )

    8-Yamik Jaouad ( RCA)

    9-Feddal Zouhair ( Alaves )

    10-Ait Benasser youssef ( AS Nancy)

    11-El Ahmadi Karim ( Feyenoord)

    12-Fajr Fayçal ( La Coruna)

    13-Boussoufa M'Bark ( Al jazira)

    14-Amrabat Sofian ( Utrecht )

    15-Belhanda Younes (Nice)

    16-Boufal Sofiane (Southampton)

    17-Carcela Mehdi ( Granada)

    18-Amrabat Nourredine (Watford )

    19-Haddad Ismael ( WAC)

    20-Ziyech Hakim ( Ajax Amsterdam )

    21-Ayoub Yassin ( FC Utrecht )

    22-En Nesyri Youssef ( Malaga )

    23-Boutaib Khalid ( Strasbourg )

    24-Bouhaddouz Aziz ( St Pauli )

    25-Azarou Oualid ( DHJ )

    26-Bammou Yacine ( Nantes )

    27-Mahi Mimoun ( Groningen ).

  • Moroccans abroad: The Real Madrid Castilla 2016-17 End of Season Review!

    The Real Madrid Castilla 2016-17 End of Season Review!

    Sam Sharpe goes through the entire squad, including the manager, and sums up their season with a rating.

    Achraf Hakimi

    The second-best right back I have ever seen play for Castilla. Only beaten by a certain Dani Carvajal. The highest assister in the team from defence, with eight. That’s a higher tally than any other player has managed in the last two seasons… He is so strong on the ball, and can beat a player with ease. Defensively he is very switched on, and shows maturity on the pitch well beyond his years. Achraf was rewarded for his efforts when he was given his International debut for Morocco against Canada. Spent pre-season with the first team, and featured in the UEFA Youth League for the u-19s right up until their semi-final exit. It’s been a great individual season for this man, and I believe he is ready to follow in the footsteps of Carvajal, and find a loan deal to a top level. If that goes well, then he can achieve whatever he wants in football. Really special player!

    Castilla rating: 7.5/10.

    Full article here:


  • NT: Hakim Ziyech Likely to Rejoin Morocco Football Team

    (Morocco World News) Ajax star Hakim Ziyech is set to make comeback to the Moroccan football team.

    According to le Matin, Ziyech is highly likely to be among the the list of 35 players the Morocco team coach Hervé Renard will select to participate in the two upcoming games against Holland and Cameroon.

    The “Atlas Lions” will face the Netherlands in a friendly match on May 31 before clashing with Cameroon for the 2019 African Cup of Nations qualifiers.

    Ziyech and Renard have not been on good terms, leading to the midfielder’s exclusion from participation in the last African Cup of Nations in Gabon.

    The player’s great performances with the Dutch team have put the French coach under huge criticism.

    In addition to Ziyech’s expected return, another Moroccan-Dutch star will be among the national squad. Mamoun Mahi, FC Groningen’s prospect, will be making his first appearance with the national team.

    Renard is set to announce the list of 35 players summoned for preparations for the two upcoming matches. Only 25 players will be selected to take on the Flying Dutchmen and Les Lions Indomptables.

  • Transfers: Benatia signs with Juventus until 2020

    Juventus exercise the option to make Medhi Benatia’s deal with the club permanent; the defender signs a contract until 30 June 2020

    Juventus are pleased to announce that they have exercised the option to make Medhi Benatia’s initial season-long loan from Bayern Munich permanent.

    The 30-year-old defender has signed a contract that ties him to the Bianconeri until 30 June 2020.

    Composure, strength and positional sense. Benatia has brought all of the above to the Bianconeri party during his debut campaign at the club.

    Upon joining from Bayern last summer, the defender hit the ground running with two goals in the pre-season tour of Melbourne and Hong Kong, as he found the net in wins over Tottenham Hotspur and South China.

    He would save his best goal for one of the biggest league games this term, as he both started and finished off a fine, flowing move to bury past Gianluigi Donnarumma for the opener in March’s crucial victory over Milan.

    That strike ensured the centre-back has now scored in all seven seasons in which he’s played in Europe’s top divisions: Serie A (with Udinese, Roma and Juventus) and the German Bundesliga (with Bayern Munich).

    It’s clear that Benatia boasts superb ball-playing ability: his 91.4 per cent of successful passes is the best of any member of the Bianconeri backline this term.

    Meanwhile, he has also excelled in his more traditional defensive tasks, making 55 clearances and 90 recoveries in 18 appearances across all competitions.

    The Morocco captain has played his part in Juve’s Champions League campaign, featuring in four victories and one draw en route to Cardiff.

    Benatia’s first, impressive chapter in black and white is coming to a close, but Bianconeri fans can now look forward to at least another three years together.


  • Press review: Juventus want answers from Rai over Medhi Benatia racist incident

    Juventus have demanded answers from broadcaster Rai after a TV interview with Medhi Benatia was cut short when the Morocco defender heard a racist remark in his earpiece.

    Benatia heard somebody insult him for his Moroccan background during the interview following Saturday's draw with Torino.

    Rai said it was showing "full solidarity with the footballer and with the club he represents," but also claimed the "unacceptable phrase was not uttered by an employee of our company."

    But Juventus have questioned RAI's version of events and demanded that the company does not "resort to excuses."

    A statement released on Monday said: "Following the regrettable insult Medhi Benatia heard through his earpiece during [the] 'Calcio Champagne' [programme], Juventus Football Club wishes to express its concern over the incident.

    "While acknowledging the Rai statement expressing solidarity, everyone -- and the player first and foremost -- deserves an explanation about what occurred.

    "A number of informal comments, including on social media, have suggested the alleged 'interference' came from the production service Juventus provided Rai Sport at Juventus Stadium.

    "That suggestion is factually unbelievable and technically implausible, given the audio line runs directly from Rai headquarters in Milan into the earpieces. Onsite production does not have direct contact with the guest.

    "Juventus hope that Rai Sport's internal investigation continues without them resorting to excuses, which tend to play down what happened and distort the facts."

    Writing on his Facebook page, Benatia said he was proud of his roots and hit out at what he called an "intolerant minority" in Italy.

    "In light of the deplorable incidents which happened during my interview with Rai Sport after the game against Torino, I wanted to confirm what I heard through my earpiece," he wrote.

    "Be aware that two other people heard the same thing as me. This terrible thing that happened is tragic, but the worst thing is that they are not recognising their mistake. An investigation is under way."

    He thanked Juventus for "doing all they can to protect me" and fans who had sent him messages of support.

    Juventus use Raicom, a member of the Rai group, as a partner for their JTV television channel and are one of five Serie A clubs who use their own technicians and equipment for providing interviews to broadcasters.


  • Moroccans abroad: Mehdi Benatia was racially abused on live Italian TV after Turin derby

    Italian football has been hit by a second racist storm inside a week after Morocco defender Mehdi Benatia was insulted live on air during a post-match television interview with Italian state broadcaster Rai.

    Benatia was being interviewed following Juventus' 1-1 Serie A draw at home with city rivals Torino when it was cut embarrassingly short by what seemed like a studio technician's gaffe.

    As he was speaking to studio presenters about Juventus, Benatia heard a voice over his radio earpiece say: "What are you saying, shitty Moroccan?"

    The 30-year-old, who had been answering a question about Juventus winning their sixth consecutive Serie A title, stopped mid-sentence and said: "Who said that? What stupid person is speaking?"

    Presenters also heard the remark, but tried to brush it off, telling Benatia: "It seems there are some technical problems. No one here has been heard making any insults."

    A visibly angry Benatia wiped his brow as presenters thanked him for his time before bringing the interview to an abrupt end.

    It is thought the remark came from a careless studio technician who had left a microphone on, but it put racism firmly back in the spotlight a week after the controversy surrounding Ghana's Sulley Muntari.


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