• WC 2026: Trump factor looms as Morocco launch bid to beat North American World Cup

    LONDON (Reuters) - The competing bids for the 2026 World Cup, the first that will feature an expanded 48-team field, began their campaigns in earnest on Tuesday ahead of June’s FIFA congress vote -- with the Donald Trump factor one of the key unknowns.

    The three-nation North American bid featuring the United States, Canada and Mexico starts as clear favorites but Morocco are hoping to follow South Africa and become the second African nation to host the global event.

    With a host of existing large stadiums and ready infrastructure to call on, North American bid head Sunil Gulati is confident his team can win over FIFA as a low-risk, high-income option.

    “We think the certainty and risk-aversion we can provide for the central piece of revenue for FIFA going forward is pretty compelling,” Gulati told reporters at a briefing in London.

    While the technical details will be submitted in mid-March to FIFA and the vote comes at June’s congress in Moscow, the impact of Donald Trump’s presidency could be an influence.

    Trump’s reported comments about “shithole countries” during a recent White House meeting discussing immigrants from Haiti and African nations are unlikely to have helped the North American bid, which will be voted on by all 207 member nations of FIFA.

    But Gulati brushed off suggestions that Trump’s words could have a major impact on the vote.

    “Whether it’s the Olympics or the World Cup we cannot control the politics. It will change over time and we have all of the assurances we need from all three governments to support the bid,” he said.

    Gulati flew into London with Mexican FA head Decio de Maria and Canadian Victor Montagliani, president of the regional CONCACAF confederation which covers North America as well as Central America and the Caribbean.

    RIVAL BID

    But the Moroccan bid, which is working with renowned international sports consultancy Vero Communications, also chose Tuesday to launch their campaign.

    At a gathering in Casablanca, the bid’s logo, leadership team and social media channels were unveiled with officials promising their bid would be compelling.

    “Morocco 2026 will showcase the best of football, at the heart of the world in the dynamic continent of Africa. We are ready to welcome the world and it is our promise to stage a tournament overflowing with real passion and to celebrate the game’s values of unity, peace and integrity,” said Moulay Hafid Elalamy, Chairman of the Morocco 2026 Bid Committee.

    The North African country bid unsuccessfully to stage the 1994, 1998, 2006 and 2010 World Cups.

    The country was second to the United States in 1994, behind France in 1998 and narrowly lost out to South Africa in its offer to stage the 2010 finals, the only time the tournament has been held in Africa.

    While Gulati stressed that the extra games and high-capacity NFL stadiums would ensure a record five million tickets would be on sale for the tournament, the Moroccans have plenty of work to do to identify venues for the expanded tournament.

    “We may surprise many people with our strong infrastructure and commercial offering, and we will highlight our wonderful welcome, host cities and stunning locations. It promises to be a truly special bid,” said Fouzi Lekjaa, President of the Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF).

    FIFA produced new bidding criteria after the organization was heavily criticised over the selection process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals, won by Russia and Qatar respectively.

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  • CHAN: Morocco to face Namibia in 1/4 finals

    (TheAtlasLions.com) The match between Zambia and Namibia ended with a 1-1 draw.

    Zambia top Group B on goal difference ahead of Namibia. Chipolopolo will face Sudan in the quarterfinals, while the Brave Warriors will battle hosts Morocco.

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  • NT: Morocco hoping to secure friendly against Argentina

    (Africanfootball.com) Morocco are hopeful that they will secure an international friendly against Argentina in late May.

    Moroccan news outlet Al Ahdath Al Maghribia cites an unnamed source close to the Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF) who claims that negotiations are very advanced with the Argentine federation.

    Both the Atlas Lions and the South Americans will use the match as preparation for their 2018 World Cup campaigns in Russia.

    Morocco will come up against Portugal, Spain and Iran in Group B, while Argentina will face Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria in Group D.

    The proposed friendly is set to be played at the Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca and will also serve as part of Morocco’s promotion of their bid to host the 2026 World Cup.

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  • CHAN: Sudan and Morocco advance after goalless draw

    (Africanfootball.com) Sudan and Morocco draw 0-0 in their final 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) Group A game at the Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca on Sunday.

    Morocco finished top of Group A with a better goal difference, while runners-up Sudan also progressed into the quarter-finals.

    Sudan were happy to sit back and launch quick counter attacks in the first-half with Morocco doing most of the attacking.

    However, Sudan goalkeeper Akram Salim had to pull off crucial saves to deny Walid El Karti, Ahmed Hammoudan and Nayef Aguerd.

    The tournament hosts should have broken the deadlock in the second-half after they were awarded a penalty, but Achraf Bencharki was denied by Salim from the spot-kick.

    Morocco were left to rue that glorious chance as Sudan stood firm at the back until the match referee blew the final whistle with the game ending in a 0-0 draw.

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  • CHAN: Morocco and Sudan in stalemate 0-0

    (TheAtlasLions.com) Morocco were held 0-0 by Sudan in their third match of the group stage CHAN on Sunday.

    Both teams are through to the 1/4 finals with Morocco on top of Group A.

    Teams:

    Sudan: Salim, Hassan, Abdalla, Ibrahim, Mohammad, B.Bashir, El Tahir, M.Bashir (Eldin 62'), Idris (Taher 60'), Gismalla, Bakhit (Elnour 82').

    Morocco: M'Hamdi, El Hachimi, Aguerd, Semmoumy, Hammoudan (Hadraf 72'), El Karti (El Hadded 83'), Boulhroud, El Yamiq, Yabrane, Nanah (El Kaabi 71'), Bencharki.

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  • CHAN 2018: Morocco have Sudan figured out

    Morocco coach Jamal Sellami is confident that his team will finish top of their 2018 Africa Nations Championship (Chan) group.

    The Lions of Atlas qualified for quarter-finals after beating Guinea 3-1 and occupy the top position in the Group A with Sudan being second, while Guinea and Mauritania follow in third and fourth place respectively.

    According to the tactician, the Moroccans have improved and he is supremely confident of achieving another victory in tonight’s game.

    “We have an important against Sudan and in the same vein we want to confirm our superiority in this group to remain in Casablanca with our fans and defend our colours.

    “We will have a new team tomorrow where we will give chance to the players who have not seen much action to have a chance because I believe in the team and every player is important for us.

    “We’re going for a win. We know Sudan have a good team with strength and some weaknesses which we will have to exploit.”

    His players led by captain, Salaheddine Said are not overly concerned about the presence of the Sudan as they have the home crowd backing their quest for glory.

    “The atmosphere has been great here because the fans are behind the team which will really help us going forward.

    “If you asked me before the tournament I would say let’s make it to the quarter finals and see how it goes from there because all the teams are playing good football.

    “The teams I have seen have good players and I think that is a huge improvement in football in Africa.”

    http://www.soka25east.com/chan-2018-morocco-sudan-figured/

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  • WC 2026: Trump Might Ruin US 2026 World Cup Bid

    (Morocco World News) Rabat – Sunil Gulati, President of US Soccer Federation has expressed concerns over the US 2026 World Cup bid. For Gulati, international political issues surrounding US President Donald Trump may affect the three-nation North American bid.

    Gulati described the bid as a “tough battle” for the three countries, according to to the US-based sports TV channel, ESPN .

    The United States is involved in a joint bid with Mexico and Canada to claim eligibility to host the 2026 World Cup. The three-nation North American bid has one rival: Morocco.

    The federation president is certain that the US-Canada-Mexico bid has all that it needs to make the voters support their bid.

    “We have to go out and convince what eventually will be 104 voters to vote for us,” Gulati said. He added that the North American three-nation bid seeks a “few extra votes to break the one-vote swing. But this won’t be easy.”

    Speaking about his concerns, Gulati mentioned recent US political controversies, such as the American embassy relocation to Jerusalem and Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.as potential roadblocks to the bid.

    “This is not only about our stadiums and our hotels and all that. It’s about perceptions of America and it’s a difficult time in the world,” Gulati said.

    He added that there are few things that is beyond his control. “We can’t control what happens at the 38th parallel in Korea, we can’t control what happens with embassies in Tel Aviv and we can’t control what happens with climate change accords. We do the best we can. We have the support of Washington.”

    Gulati will retire his presidency of the US Soccer Federation next month, after having served as its chairman for 12 years. Howeve, Gulati will remain the chairman of the committee board of directors for the three-nation bid.

    In December, Gulati said that the North American bidders are expecting Morocco to “campaign hard” in order to host the 2026 World Cup.

    “We expect Morocco to put forward a very good bid […], we expect them to campaign hard,” he said.

    Earlier this month, President of Morocco’s Football Federation Fouzi Lekjaa said that Morocco is ready to face the North American bid to host the 2026 World Cup.

    The bid will be based on a vote by all members of the FIFA. Lekjaa added that this could be in Morocco’s favor, “unlike previous times when only the Executive Committee had the last word on the matter.”

    Lekjaa said that 104 votes for Morocco would be enough for the country to host the 2026 world tournament. In June 2018, 221 national federations will gather at a congress in Moscow to finalize eligibility decisions for the 23rd FIFA World Cup host site. The candidates’ files should meet FIFA’s technical terms, including infrastructural and commercial criteria.

    Candidates will have to submit their complete candidacy files and proposals by March 16.

    Morocco submitted its candidacy to host the tournament on August 11, 2017. Ahmad Ahmad, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) president, highly endorsed his nation’s bid

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  • CHAN: Is Hafidi Out of the African Nations Championship?

    Morocco World News - Rabat – Injured in the first minutes of the Atlas Lions’ impressive 3-1 win over Guinea last Wednesday, playmaker Abdelilah Hafidi has been declared unfit for 10 days of play by the local team’s medical staff.

    This injury marks a serious blow to the tactical game and morale of the Atlas Lions, especially considering that Achraf Bencharki, another vital playmaker, may not continue with the team given his imminent move to the Saudi El Halil squad following the tournament

    Hafidi suffered a muscular strain in his groin 17 minutes into the Guinea game last Wednesday., at which time he was replaced by Walid El Karti of Wydad Casablanca. Said Zkini, the leading medic with the local Lions said that Hafidi would not be able to play for at least ten consecutive days.

    As a result, the local playmaker won’t feature in the upcoming game against Sudan this on Sunday, which will determine the tournament leaders. Hafidi will also be quarter-final play.

    Should Morocco reach the semifinals, Hafidi could return for the local Lions’ prospective final triumph.

    Despite this setback, coach Jamal Sellami, sees no reason to panic, as he believes that every single player must feel integral to the success of the team if the squad is to go far in the tournament.

    “Everyone is important, but no one is indispensable”, Sellami concluded.

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  • Transfers: RHERRAS JOINS HIBERNIAN

    Hibernian can confirm that defender Faycal Rherras has joined the Club on loan from KV Mechelen until the end of the season, subject to international clearance.

    http://www.hibernianfc.co.uk/news/8348

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  • Botola Pro: Faouzi Benzarti appointed new Wydad Casablanca coach

    African Champions Wydad Casablanaca have appointed 68-year-old Tunisian Faouzi Benzarti as their new coach on a one year, five months deal.

    Club’s president Siad Naciri confirmed the deal, “Faouzi Benzarti is officially the new coach having signed for one year, five months.”

    Faouzi succeeds Moroccan Hussein Amotta, who was recently dismissed together with his entire support staff following a poor home record.

    He returns to Botola Pro since guiding Wydad’s arch rivals Raja Casablanca to the FIFA Club World Cup final in 2014.

    Faouzi boasts an impressive record in Africa with nine Tunisian league titles, one African Champions League title and one CAF Super Cup title among other honors.

    The former Esperance du Tunis, Etoile du Sahel and ES Tunis coach has his work cut out at Wydad as he will be expected to steady the club’s sinking ship in the league where they are the defending champions and guide them in the African Champions League title defense.

    The team is currently 12th in the league 13 points off leaders Hassania Agadir.

    Wydad will take on TP Mazembe of DR Congo in this season’s CAF Super Cup.

    “Our objectives are to win titles have challenges coming up 24 February in the CAF Super Cup in addition to all other fronts,” Naciri stressed.

    http://www.soka25east.com/confirmed-faouzi-benzarti-appointed-new-wydad-casablanca-coach/

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