• Mor vs Esp: Angry Morocco are not leaving World Cup quietly

    (Reuters) Kaliningrad: Morocco will play their final World Cup match with a big chip on their shoulders, with their coach taking a few early parting shots at referees and officials on Sunday ahead of the team's Group B clash with Spain.

    A still-fuming Morocco coach Herve Renard seemed to be more focused on the 1-0 loss to Portugal last Wednesday than their Monday match against Spain and the chance of heading home with a big scalp.

    The heart-breaking defeat to the European champions meant that Morocco would become the first team out of the World Cup and stung even more by what Renard viewed as questionable officiating.

    "For us it is unjust we are already out before these third matches, but we have to accept reality and concentrate on this third game and to save our honour since this is all that is left to us," said Renard.

    "The most difficult thing is to play this kind of match knowing we will have to pack and go home and leave the competition.

    "We have to force ourselves to find something to fight for.

    "I hope we will be galvanised by what has been inflicted against us, and this is what I will try to tell my players."

    A battling Morocco have played with energy and purpose, but a lack of finishing left the North African side with nothing more to show for their effort than a pair of 1-0 losses to Portugal and Iran.

    Renard was still particularly upset at what he felt was a foul by Portugal's Pepe on Khalid Boutaib that opened the way for Ronaldo's fourth minute goal.

    "It is highly unfair," said Renard. "There was a huge foul committed by Pepe on the first post, it was not seen. Why wasn't it seen?

    "And there was Pepe's hand (ball) just as happened in Australia against Denmark for which there was a penalty. It may have been an unintentional hand, but why do we get different results in two games?

    "And then Boutaib is tackled violently in the box and the referees don't say a word, so the whole thing is totally unfair."

    While Morocco will be playing for honour, Spain will be seeking something much more tangible.

    Having already secured a place in the knockout round, Spain enter their final group match on four points, equal with Portugal but with top spot up for grabs.

    "As far as we are concerned we will play the same way we played against Portugal and Iran and so the best we can," said Moroccan goalkeeper Munir Mohamedi. "We haven't been fortunate with respect to the final results, but I do think we do deserve this reward and give some joy to the squad and all the people who supported us."

  • Referee designations FWC 2018 Match 36: #ESP🆚#MAR⁠ ⁠⁠(25 June):

    Referee: Ravshan IRMATOV (UZB)

    ASR 1: Abduxam. RASULOV (UZB)

    ASR 2: Jakhongir SAIDOV (UZB)

    4th Off. MOHAM. ABDULLA (UAE)

    Res.Ass Moham.ALHAMMADI (USA)

  • Factbox - Spain vs. Morocco

    (Reuters) - Spain take on Morocco in their final World Cup Group B match on Monday.

    Where: Rostov Arena, Rostov

    Capacity: 45,000

    When: Monday June 25, 2100 local (1800 GMT/2 PM ET)

    Referee: To be announced

    Key stats:

    - Morocco have been eliminated from the World Cup after losing 1-0 to Iran and 1-0 to Portugal.

    - Spain have not lost a game since losing to Italy in the last 16 of Euro 2016 and are unbeaten in their last 22.

    - Diego Costa, who has netted three times in two World Cup games, has scored nine goals in his last nine starts for Spain.

    - Spain, on four points after drawing 3-3 with Portugal and beating Iran 1-0, need a draw to progress to the last 16 but will be looking to win and outscore Portugal, who face Iran, in order to finish top of Group B on goal difference.

    - If Iran beat Portugal they will reach the knockout stage at the European champions’ expense.

    - If Portugal and Spain win their final games by the same scoreline, top spot will be determined by which team has the cleaner disciplinary record, with Spain currently on one yellow card to Portugal’s two.

    - If Spain qualify, they will play either Russia or Uruguay in the last 16.

    Previous meetings: Spain and Morocco have not met since they faced each other in an intercontinental playoff tie to qualify for the 1962 World Cup. Spain won the first leg away from home 1-0, grabbing a 3-2 victory in the second.

  • WC 2018: Morocco aiming to salvage something from last game vs Spain

    KALININGRAD, Russia (AP) — Morocco has lost both its matches at the World Cup and hasn't scored a goal. That doesn't mean Spain will have it easy against the North Africans.

    The Atlas Lions will be desperate to salvage something from what has been a miserable World Cup for Morocco when they take on Spain in Kaliningrad on Monday in their final Group B match.

    Morocco coach Herve Renard says "We will finish against Spain and we will try to finish with flying colors."

    A win for Spain would guarantee the 2010 World Champion advances to the knockout stage. A draw would be enough if Portugal beats Iran in the other Group B match.

  • Morocco & the World Cup: What’s Really Going on?

    By Morocco World News -

    Washington D.C.– With the early exit of Morocco’s national team, dubbed the Atlas Lions, from the 2018 Russia World Cup, Moroccan fans have shifted their attention to dissecting what went wrong.

    What makes this question interesting is the gladiator nature of Morocco’s effort and performance in this tournament. They had the giant Portugal, with Ronaldo and his 5 Ballon d’Or honors, on their knees, but simply could not deliver a swift blow.

    Moroccan supporters will point to poor referring as the main reason. While that claim holds some water, there is a pattern that has plagued Morocco every time it partakes in a world cup, and this tournament is no different. Morocco always manages to find a way to shoot itself in the foot.

    In its first World Cup appearance in 1970, Morocco had an okay showing given the game was, comparatively, severely underdeveloped in the country. They lost to Germany and Peru, two powerhouses at the time, and tied Bulgaria. They were first to score against Germany only to lose at the end, and lost 3-0 to Peru. They did not make it past the first round, but managed to get 1 point. No controversy here.

    In 1986, Morocco topped its group with 4 points, having maneuvered through the giants of the time: England, Portugal, and Poland. In the round of 16, Morocco was eliminated by Germany with a 1-0 score. Germany’s goal was earned on a free kick in minute 88, just two minutes away from the end of regulation.

    If that outcome was expected on paper, the performances of both teams did not reflect it. Morocco was as much in the game as Germany was. It came down to a mistake in wall-placement after the referee whistled a free kick. German legend Lothar Matthaus exploited the hole, and Morocco was out of the tournament in round 2.

    Moving on to the 1994 World Cup. Up until then, FIFA had been using the two-point system. In the group stage, a team got 2 points for a win, 1 point for a tie, and 0 points for a loss. But in that tournament, it had moved to the 3-point award system, giving teams 3 points for a win, while draws and losses rest remained unchanged.

    In the 1994 World Cup, despite losing its first game with a score of 1-0 against Belgium, Morocco had a great game and quite a few missed opportunities. One such memorable opportunity came when Morocco’s center forward, Chaouch, hit the ball into the crossbar after a perfect pass from the right side, courtesy of the elusive midfielder Bahja, who had come in as a substitute.

    But it was a game against Saudi Arabia that did Morocco in. The Lions’ supporters were outraged. They blamed their goalkeeper for failing to stop a meager shot coming from 30-plus yards. That loss proved unforgivable. Morocco ended up exiting the tournament, at the bottom of the group, with zero points. That was its worst World Cup participation to date.

    Moving on to 1998, Morocco’s exit was also in the first round, but it was a heartbreaker. They tied Norway, lost to Brazil, and beat Scotland convincingly with a 3-0 final score.

    The game of interest is the 2-2 tie with Norway. Norway’s first goal was courtesy of Moroccan midfielder, Youssef Chippo, who headed the ball into his own net while attempting to clear it out. The own-goal came in the dying minutes of the first half.

    As for the World Cup in Russia, it is the same old broken record. An own goal by Morocco against Iran in its first game in the 95th minute cost them the game. Center forward Aziz Bouhaddouz, who came in as a substitute in the 77th minute, dove to clear an Iranian cross from a free kick, only to see it inside his own net. “We were crucified,” Lions’ coach Hervé Renard commented. This one, also, proved harsh. Morocco found itself out of the tournament with 0 points after only two games.

    The moral of the story is that the World Cup requires nerves of steel. To get attention, you need to be able to hang with the big boys. And to win it, you need to be a big boy!

  • World Cup 2018: Despite early elimination, the future looks bright for Morocco’s Harit

    (DW) Morocco have become the first team to be knocked out of the World Cup after losing to Portugal. However, for Schalke’s Moroccan midfielder Amine Harit, there is plenty to be optimistic about.

    Two years ago, Amine Harit would probably have looked at you in bemusement if you told him he would be playing for Morocco at the World Cup in Russia. The then-19-year-old was struggling to break through at French side Nantes, and question marks hung over his attitude and dedication to football.

    Fast forward to now and Harit – who joined Schalke at the start of last season – appears a totally different player both on and off the field. He has established himself as one of his country's key performers and carries himself with a maturity beyond his years. It is a sign of how far the young midfielder has come that he can be self-critical in the wake of Morocco's World Cup elimination. Merely being here isn't enough.

    "It's a shame, because we deserved more than this defeat. We played a very good game against a Portugal side who are the European champions," Harit told DW after Wednesday's match. "I think we only have ourselves to blame, we had the chances to win but we didn't do it."

    There is a strange irony in the fact that the turning point in Harit's meteoric rise came when he was representing France – the country of his birth – at the European Under-19 Championship in Germany. Lining up alongside current France World Cup star Kylian Mbappe, the cherubic Harit stole the show, popping up with two assists in Les Bleus' final win over Italy and gaining a host of admirers.

    Swapping national colors

    An €8 million ($9.3 million) move to Schalke followed the next summer and with it, a dilemma: stick with France or switch allegiance to Morocco, where both of his parents were born. After much deliberation, Harit opted for the latter. That decision, as we now know, proved to be prescient, with the World Cup offering him the next step up in his career.

    "It's important for us to play in a competition like this to gain experience," Harit said. "I hope we'll be ready [to do better] at the next World Cup."

    Appearing in this tournament for the first time in 20 years, Morocco are currently enjoying a resurgence after years in the international doldrums. Their success under coach Herve Renard is founded on a solid defense – the Atlas Lions conceded just one goal in African World Cup qualifying – and giving young flair players like Harit and Ajax's Hakim Ziyach the freedom to roam and run with the ball.

    "We have lots of good young players," Harit said. "It's up to us to continue the work that's been in place for several years. We have to continue to bring in players who have more experience, so we are able to compete at the next World Cup."

    Fan favorite in Gelsenkirchen

    But that is four years away, giving Harit plenty of time to focus on his club football. He has already taken the Bundesliga by storm, being named the league's rookie of the season and endearing himself to the Schalke faithful with some dazzling displays – none more so than in the dramatic 4-4 draw with the club's arch rivals Borussia Dortmund last November.

    Schalke were 4-0 down when Harit came off the bench and he didn't disappoint, scoring one and tormenting the Dortmund defense with his probing runs. He even carried on through the pain of a gashed calf, his commitment to the cause earning him high praise from coach Domenico Tedesco.

    Indeed, Harit has been thriving under the nurturing wing of Tedesco, whose ability to get the best out of his players saw Schalke finish second in the Bundesliga last season and claim a place in next year's Champions League.

    "I need to continue to progress and work hard in training to keep moving forward," said Harit, who made 31 appearances for the Royal Blues in 2017-18. "We have an important season ahead of us. I hope it will go well."

    It is not surprising that Harit's performances have been catching the eye of a host of major European clubs, with Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich vying for his signature even before he moved to Schalke. But the skillful midfielder insists he is "very happy" in Gelsenkirchen.

    "For the moment, I'm a Schalke player," he said. "It's going well and God willing, I'm going to stay at Schalke for now."

  • NT: Angry Benatia Takes Issue with Unsupportive Friends, Unfair Referee

    By Zoubida Senoussi - Morocco World News

    Rabat – The remarkable Moroccan team did not make it against Portugal (1-0). Leaving the World Cup competition, the Atlas Lions had given their best to make Moroccan fans proud.

    Despite an outstanding performance in their second game, the national team have to go home after their last game in the group stage against Spain, June 25.

    Speaking after the Morocco-Portugal match, the captain of the national team, Mehdi Benatia, had a lot to say on some people who “turned their backs” on the team since they lost the first game against Iran.

    “People close to us have already turned their backs on us after the first game. I say it and I repeat it well, some people close to the team thought that we had become spoiled children since the qualification at the World Cup, that we did not deserve to be there,” he revealed to beIN Sports.

    “These are not journalists or other people but close people who should not have that kind of words, yet they got it. We the players, we wanted to show to these puppets what we are capable of,” added the Juventus defender.

    “That we are a generation that has a lot of heart. We are not the best in the world but we have a lot of heart and today we saw it. We saw players like Boussoufa who is 1m50 take on guys who are two meters. We saw a team of men. I am sad to come out of this competition. But a big thank you to all our people,” he concluded.

    Just like his coach, Hervé Renard, Benatia, 31, was not happy with the referee’s decisions in the Portugal game.

    “The difference between them [Portugal] and us [Morocco] is that they have Cristiano. He needs half a chance to score. But I invite you to review the goal. There is a huge fault of Pepe on Boutaïb. I went to see the referee and told him: ‘I know that there are some great players in front, but a little respect for our country!’”

    The French-Moroccan football player also praised the Moroccan fans and promised them better days, starting with the last game against Spain on Monday.

    “We will give everything against Spain and do everything to win or at least mark. The goal is to give pride to this country. There are talented young people in this team, I do not worry about this generation. “

  • ‘Morocco Deserved Better’: Spain’s Casillas and Italy’s Del Piero

    By Morocco World News

    Rabat – Morocco’s loss to Portugal yesterday sealed the Atlas Lions’ fate, ending their 2018 World Cup. After such an early exit, football legends Iker Casillas and Alessandro Del Piero have said the Atlas Lions “deserved better.”

    Iker Casillas, who made his mark on the game as a Real Madrid and Spain goalkeeper, captaining the Spanish side that conquered Europe and the world from 2008 to 2012, said that it is unbelievable that a team of Morocco’s caliber could lose twice in a row and not even score once.

    Morocco lost to Iran June 15 with a 95th minute own goal.

    The Spaniard pointed out that the quality in Morocco’s squad and the impressive performances they delivered in their two appearances make it “unbelievable” that they could have such a disappointing world cup.

    “I think it is unbelievable that Morocco did not secure even one point in its two matches. But it is even more unbelievable that they have not scored a single goal,” the former Real Madrid stopper said.

    “But this is football!” he exclaimed.

    For his part, former Italy and Juventus legend Alessandro Del Piero slightly criticized the Atlas Lions for lacking sharpness and effectiveness in their finishes. He said that it is a pity that a team could play as the Atlas Lions did and yet fail to claim even one point.

    “Cruel World Cup for Morocco. First the Iran joke, then Cristiano punished you when you were least focused,” the Italian legend said. “Two solid matches, good organization, impressive football, but zero point. That’s a pity, you deserved better!”

    Portugal’s Coach Fernando Santos echoed similar feelings during yesterday’s post-match press conference, saying that Morocco’s pressure and good organization damaged the confidence of Portuguese players.

    While such opinions will not reverse Morocco’s standing in Group B, it is surely a consolation for many Moroccan fans that the Atlas Lions’ solid performance has won them the respect and admiration of international fans and observers.

    However, such public acclaim for quality football and teamwork put an even stronger pressure on Moroccan players when facing Spain on Monday, June 25. With no qualification at stake in the Spain game, the Lions will still have to score to end the contest with honor.

  • Russia 2018: FIFA issues statement after 'questionable' Amrabat decision

    Nordin Amrabat was selected to play for Morocco just five days after sustaining a concussion in the defeat to Iran and FIFA has responded.

    FIFA has dubbed Morocco's decision to play Nordin Amrabat against Portugal as 'questionable', following the concussion sustained in the defeat to Iran.

    Amrabat was forced off during Morocco's Group B defeat to Iran on Friday following a clash of heads, which led to the Watford midfielder sustaining memory loss and spending the night in hospital.

    FIFA guidelines suggest a minimum of six days on the sidelines after concussion but do not have authority to enforce their ruling, with the final decision resting with the team doctors.

    While Amrabat started the game against Portugal wearing a protective cap, the 31-year-old discarded it after just a few minutes and his selection attracted widespread criticism.

    "Following the questionable handling of the concussion incident involving the Moroccan player, [Nordin] Amrabat, during the Morocco-Iran match, FIFA wrote to the Moroccan team doctor to remind him of the importance to adhere to the guidelines that have been communicated," FIFA said in a statement.

    "While the assessment and case management of concussion incidents falls under the sole responsibility of the respective team doctors, FIFA will address this matter with the Moroccan FA and, speaking in general terms, FIFA will monitor closely this matter throughout the competition."

    FIFA added that the Moroccan Football Federation would need to explain why Amrabat was allowed to play against Portugal, while FIFPro, the world players' union, condemned Amrabat's involvement in their own statement.

    "This is yet another alarming example of a player being put in harm's way. Amrabat returned to action too soon according to medical guidelines," they said on Twitter.

    "Four years on from the debacle of the last World Cup, where several players did not receive adequate care, football has not made sufficient progress in concussion management. Calls to implement world-class standards have been overlooked."

  • World Cup 2018: Fifa deny referee asked for Cristiano Ronaldo’s shirt at half-time of Portugal vs Morocco

    Fifa have denied claims that the referee of the Portugal vs Morocco game on Wednesday afternoon asked for Cristiano Ronaldo’s shirt at half time of the Group B encounter.

    Morocco’s Watford midfielder Nordin Amrabat told Dutch television that he heard from Portugal defender Pepe that American referee Mark Geiger asked for Ronaldo’s shirt at half time in the ill-tempered game.

    “I do not know what he is used to,” Amrabat said to NOS about the referee following the 1-0 defeat. “But he was very impressed with Cristiano Ronaldo and I hear from (Portugal defender) Pepe that he asked (Ronaldo) in the first half if he could have (Pepe's) shirt.

    “What are we talking about? At the World Cup? It’s not a circus here.”

    However, Fifa have strongly refuted the claims and added a mild rebuke in the direction of Morocco, reminding them to “respect all principles of Fair Play”.

    In a statement, they said: “It is with regret and disappointment that, following yesterday’s Group B game between Portugal and Morocco, Fifa has learnt of reports in the media concerning the referee Mark Geiger Mark Geiger.

    “It has been claimed that Mr Geiger asked for the shirt of the captain of Portugal during the half-time interval. Mr Geiger strongly refutes these claims and categorically states that such a request was not made.

    “Fifa unequivocally condemns the allegations supposedly made by a member of the Moroccan team. Fifa referees are under clear instructions with regard to their behaviour and relationship with the teams at the 2018 Fifa World Cup Russia and it can be confirmed that Mr Geiger has acted in an exemplary and professional manner as an appointed match official.

    “Fifa would like to remind teams of their duty to respect all principles of Fair Play.”



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