• Benatia: 'Ziyech should join Roma'

    By Football Italia staff

    Medhi Benatia confirmed he has advised his Morocco teammate Hakim Ziyech to snub Ajax and Liverpool. “I hope he joins Roma.”

    The 25-year-old creative midfielder is looking to leave Amsterdam this summer and has been heavily linked with both Liverpool and the Giallorossi.

    “I hope he joins Roma,” Juventus defender Benatia told reporters at the 2018 World Cup after Morocco’s defeat to Portugal.

    “I know that Roma are considering Ziyech. He is a great player with incredible quality. I told him that Roma is a special club where he can do well, their fans are great and very passionate.”

    Ziyech scored nine goals with 18 assists in 39 competitive games for Ajax this season.

    Benatia knows the Roma atmosphere well, as he played at the Stadio Olimpico in 2013-14.

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  • NT: Teary Hervé Renard Proud of Atlas Lions, Angry at Referee

    (Morocco World News) Rabat – “We need to congratulate the players, they were fantastic!” said a very emotional and proud Hervé Renard to beIN Sport after the remarkable performance of the national team against Portugal, despite its defeat (1-0).

    The Atlas Lions tried everything, but failed to score against Portugal and their football star Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored in the 4th minute of the match.

    However, the Moroccan team dominated the ball with 63 percent possession against 37 percent for Portugal.

    Moroccan striker Nordin Amrabat, who suffered a head injury during the Iran-Morocco game, was called the man of the game, and he well deserved it for his fabulous attacking skills, showing great determination to make history again.

    The Atlas Lions prevented the Portuguese team from scoring another goal with pressure, great defense, and strength.

    After the confrontation, with tears in his eyes, the coach of the national team did not hold back his opinion on the referee.

    “You have to look at number 3 (Pepe) in slow motion, I think everything is said.” Renard was referring to the hand of the Portuguese central defender, which was not called out by Referee Geiger or his assistants. According to Renard, Pepe’s move deserved a penalty in favor of Morocco in the 85th minute.

    Moreover, in a press conference, Hervé Renard expressed his pride in coaching the Moroccan team.

    “We are a team that plays football, we demonstrated it again.”

    He also wanted to thank the million Moroccans who supported the Atlas Lions during the competition, making it feel like Benatia and his teammates “were playing at Casablanca.”

    Despite their elimination from the World Cup competition, Renard’s Lions will face their last opponent Spain, on June 25.

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  • 1-0: Morocco Lost to Portugal after Spectacular Performance

    (Morocco World News) Rabat – The Atlas Lions roared in their second 2018 World Cup game against Portugal. The Moroccan team, however, was not lucky enough to score against the Portuguese squad after Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal in the 4th minute of the match.

    The Moroccan football team challenged the Portuguese team with their counter-attacks and defensive skills during the game against Portugal. All players delivered a solid performance throughout the game, but missed multiple opportunities to beat Ronaldo’s team.

    Moroccan striker Nordin Amrabat, who suffered a head injury during the Iran-Morocco game, was called the man of the game, and he well deserved it for his fabulous attacking skills, showing great determination to make history again.

    Morocco’s head coach, Hervé Renard, made two changes during the second half of the game, exchanging Khalid Boutaib with Ayoub El Kaabi and Younes Belhanda with Mehdi Carcela.

    The Atlas Lions prevented the Portuguese team from scoring another goal with pressure, great defense, and strength.

    The Moroccan team dominated the ball with 63 percent possession against 37 percent for Portugal.

    Morocco lost their first game against Iran Friday after an own goal by Aziz Bouhaddouz in the extra time of the second half.

    The Atlas Lions had more shots (4) on target than they did in their first game against Iran. Moroccan fans can be proud of their team.

    The game’s referee did not award the Moroccan team a free kick after Portugal’s Raphaël Guerreiro pushed Amrabat in the penalty zone.

    Morocco’s striker Mehdi Benatia also missed two golden opportunities to score. Moroccan sports analysts said that the changes in the second half, referring to the exchange of Belhanda with Mehdi Carcela.

    Cameras surrounding Luzhniki stadium in Moscow showed some Moroccan fans crying after the game.

    Morocco has only one game left to play against Spain on June 25.

    Morocco does not have any chance to move to the next round of the 2018 World Cup after losing its first and second game. Senegal, which won 2-1 against Poland, is the only African to win its first 2018 World Cup game.

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  • WC 2018: Morocco eliminated from the World Cup

    (TheAtlasLions.com)

    Final Whistle!

    94' Corner for Portugal

    93' Benatia shoots off target

    5 minutes of additional time

    90' Corner for Morocco

    90' Good chance for Ziyech

    86' El Ahmadi replaced by Fayçal Fajr

    84' Free-kick for Portugal

    80' Dirar shoots off target

    80' Corner for Morocco

    79' Corner for Morocco

    78' Benatia heads wide

    77' Free-kick for Morocco

    75' Belhanda replaced by Mehdi Carcela

    69' Ayoub El Kaabi replaced Khalib Boutaib

    67' Free-kick for Morocco taken by Ziyech

    62' Free-kick for Portugal

    60' Free-kick for Morocco taken by Boussoufa and Benatia shoots wide

    57' Free-kick for Morocco taken by Ziyech

    56' Free-kick for Morocco taken by Ziyech and great header by Belhanda blocked by the goalkeeper

    55' Belhanda shoots in the hands of the goalkeeper

    51' Ronaldo shoots wide

    47' Corner for Portugal

    Second half is underway!

    Half Time!

    45+2 Free-kick for Morocco

    3 minutes of additional time!

    39' Save by Munir!

    37' Free-kick for Morocco

    35' Free-kick for Morocco taken by Ziyech

    34' El Ahmadi shoots off target

    32' Corner for Portugal

    31' Free-kick for Portugal

    23' Ziyech shoots in the hands of the goalkeeper

    20' Corner for Morocco

    18' Ziyech's shot blocked

    14' Da Costa heads wide

    13' Corner for Morocco

    11' Da Costa heads in the hands of the goalkeeper

    10' Boussoufa's header goes wide

    9' Another chance for Ronaldo

    4' Goal for Portugal by Ronaldo

    4' Another corner for Portugal

    4' Corner for Portugal

    2' Boutaib's header goes wide

    Match is underway!

    Manuel Da Costa plays today, who is familiar with a number of this team from his time in the Portuguese youth system, while Nabil Dirar returns from injury. He has also opted for Khalid Boutaib up top.

    Competition: World Cup 2018 - Group Stage

    Kickoff: 12h00 GMT, 14h00 CET

    Location: Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow

    Starting line ups:

    Morocco:

    12-EL KAJOUI,2-HAKIMI,4-DA COSTA,5-BENATIA (C),7-ZIYACH,8-EL AHMADI,10-BELHANDA,13-BOUTAIB,14-BOUSSOUFA,16-N. AMRABAT,17-DIRAR

    Portugal:

    1-RUI PATRICIO,3-PEPE,5-RAPHAEL,6-FONTE,7-RONALDO,8-J. MOUTINHO,10-J. MÁRIO,11-BERNARDO,14-WILLIAM,17-G. GUEDES,21-CÉDRIC.

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  • Opposition Scouting Report: How can Morocco defeat Portugal?

    Introduction

    Portugal have developed a reputation of being difficult to beat, and they have a real doggedness and resilience about them.

    With Cristiano Ronaldo, they boast a genuine elite superstar, while they also offer experience and the nous of how to win major tournaments.

    However, with an ageing defence, how will they cope with pace and dynamism, and how would they fare if Ronaldo has an off day?

    Their 3-3 draw with Spain had it all, and while La Roja were the better side, Ronaldo reminded the watching world how lethal he can be on the big occasion.

    Ex-Zambia assistant coach and current Queens Park Rangers analyst Irfan Kawri outlines how Morocco can silence Ronaldo and neutralise Portugal.

    How can Morocco neutralise Portugal's strengths?

    Ronaldo showcased his many qualities against Spain, particularly his pace, and ability to drive and link-up play quickly in transition.

    He was the main out-ball for his team, and at times Portugal went long and direct to him.

    On a number of occasions, he peeled out wide to the left and got on the ball.

    He was the main threat for his team and if Morocco can keep him quiet, they have a real chance...but how do they do that?

    The Atlas Lions have to get tight and make life difficult for him. They must be aggressive, and get in his face.

    Spain's expansive possession-based approach suited Ronaldo, as he had space to exploit in transition. Morocco must completely reduce this space.

    For the first few minutes against Spain, Portugal did surprise me as they really went for it and committed a number of player forward, including full-back Raphael Guerreiro.

    They attacked Spain, and got their reward early.

    After the goal, there was a period in the first half where Portugal showed their good organisation off the ball, with two banks of four and the two ahead.

    Both Ronaldo and Goncalo Guedes sat in and never pressed the Spain centre-backs. Instead, they dropped as Portugal employed a middle-to-low block.

    They were compact, resilient, and had good distances between the lines, at least for the first half an hour.

    With this approach, it is imperative that Morocco move the ball quickly and get it in wide areas early, particularly if the switch of play is on.

    Portugal showed some really good counter-attacking play, finding themselves in good positions quickly after retrieving the ball.

    It is important that Morocco do not over commit and have balance and security to their play, otherwise Portugal can hurt them. Spain certainly found themselves in 2v2 and 3v2 overload situations far too often.

    In possession, the left-back Guerreiro got in good attacking positions, supporting the play with his mobility and dynamism.

    Morocco must be wary of a potential 2v1 on their right-back - likely Nabil Dirar - and make sure he has cover and support. The absence of Nordin Amrabat, their most impressive player against Iran, could prove costly here.

    Portugal proved they can be tactically flexible, and Fernando Santos effectively changed things up with offensive substitutions against Spain. Herve Renard must be wary of the changing shape and face of the game as it develops.

    How can Morocco exploit Portugal's weaknesses?

    Both Pepe and Jose Fonte can be got at, just look at Diego Costa's first goal as he bullied the former, outmuscling him, he then twisted and turned Fonte in a tight space before scoring after making space with his footwork.

    In Khalid Boutaib, do Morocco have a player who can bully the centre-backs in a similar way?

    Apart from Ronaldo, there was not that much attacking threat as Portugal only had the three attempts at goal which were all CR7's goals.

    They heavily rely on Ronaldo, and if he does have an off-day this could jeopardise their chances of winning. As noted above, Morocco must exploit and expose this over-reliance.

    After the first half hour against Spain, La Roja began to find some rhythm and exploit the space Portugal left between the lines.

    Spain's movement, interchange and combination play began to get the better of Portugal, and this kind of intricacy and speed of passing is not necessarily beyond Morocco.

    With the left-back Guerreiro bombing on down his flank, there was a massive space in behind which left Fonte exposed.

    If Morocco can hit this space early, they can demonstrate their offensive qualities and pick at Portugal's weakest centre-back.

    Morocco can really get at both Pepe and Fonte with quick play in and around their feet. They must run-in behind, down the sides, in the channels and drive at them to expose those creaking legs.

    In the second-half, there were times when the midfield four pushed ahead off the ball, but the back four didn't join them, leaving too much space between the lines.

    This has the potential to be a gift for Morocco, and is a glaring weakness that Renard must exploit. If they can use that space, they can isolate the centre-backs one on one.

    Conclusion

    Portugal did demonstrate their ability to have a good defensive shape and be organised off the ball for periods and had good moments on the counter, but Spain, when they got going, showed how their neighbours can be troubled.

    Ronaldo was the European champions' saving grace and helped mask their failings.

    If Morocco can stop him - easier said than done - then Portugal's goal threat beyond him looks limited.

    http://global.espn.com/football/morocco/story/3535265/world-cup-how-can-morocco-defeat-portugal

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  • Mor vs Por: Portugal boss Santos wary of under-pressure Morocco

    Portugal manager Fernando Santos has warned his team about the threat Morocco will pose in Wednesday's World Cup Group B fixture.

    Morocco's 1-0 defeat by Iran has put them under pressure to secure a positive result and revive their chances of progressing to the knockout stages.

    Portugal's 3-3 draw with Spain also leaves them in an uncertain position, but although they remain favourites finish in the top two alongside their neighbours, Santos recognises the danger involved in Wednesday's meeting (Live on RTÉ2, 1pm).

    Morocco were expected to be their biggest rivals for second place, behind Spain, and the 63-year-old told FIFA's official website: "The Morocco team is very good; one of the best African squads. They're very good and have players who've been playing mostly in Europe.

    "They're very well organised, they know the game technically and tactically. They've always played to their full intensity on the pitch and we have to respond to that.

    "Portugal's ready. We have to do what we've done so far; give our best in terms of concentration, and respond to the opponents' intensity. It's a very important game because nothing's been decided.

    "We've thought about what we did (against Spain) - the good things, the less good things. We've tried to continue improving what we did well and rectify what we didn't do so well, but it's two or three days, we don't have magic dust.

    "I hope Cristiano (Ronaldo) will play a great match. We're used to that almost, not only in the last match but his career as a whole. I hope he and our team are ready, and we'll be able to face a strong team like Morocco. But I've never seen a player win a game on his own."

    Santos refused to reveal if he would make changes to his team, but he was joined at Tuesday's press conference by Pepe, who added: "They're strong as a whole. It's a good team; they fight quite well, and work very well and are very well trained.

    "It's nothing new, about Cristiano Ronaldo. We had a fantastic match and it's very important he's so humble on the pitch to help the team and the country. We're very happy with him and his performance.

    "I hope this is going to be a good match for us. We are representing our country, and this is the most important thing right now to all of us."

    Morocco manager Herve Renard said of the in-form Ronaldo, who scored a hat-trick against Spain, to L'Equipe: "Those who try to mount a plan against him, he always manages to find something to make the difference.

    "He's an exceptional player. The word may not even be strong enough, but we must do everything to make it less exceptional.

    "If we put three (players) on Ronaldo, they have so much offensive quality.

    "If it only happens once in our lives to play Cristiano Ronaldo, you have to be the best you can."

    https://www.rte.ie/sport/world-cup-2018/2018/0619/971754-portugal-boss-santos-wary-of-under-pressure-morocco/

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  • Mor vs Por: Planning for Ronaldo might prove futile, says Morocco coach

    MOSCOW (Reuters) - Even the best laid plans to limit the influence of Cristiano Ronaldo might not be enough for Morocco when they come up against Portugal at the World Cup in Moscow, coach Herve Renard said on the eve of the Group B game.

    Morocco are looking for an upset win over the European champions at the Luzhniki Stadium to realistically keep alive their interest in the tournament but mindful that the genius of the Portugal captain could send them toward an early exit.

    Ronaldo scored a hat-trick in Portugal's opening 3-3 draw with Spain, while Morocco lost 1-0 to Iran who top the group.

    “Even if you conjure up the best plans to halt Ronaldo, he will find a way to break free. He always makes the difference, at the minimum to put his side on the right track and at best to win the game for them," the French-born coach said on Tuesday.

    “He’s absolutely outstanding, exceptional and we might not be good enough to keep him out. But we have to do our utmost to make him less exceptional tomorrow,” Renard added at a pre-match news conference on Tuesday.

    The Morocco coach might consider taking a leaf out of Iceland's play book after they had up to three players at times harrying Lionel Messi and restricting his ability to play.

    It was a ploy that played a large part in the surprise 1-1 Group D draw that Iceland forced against Argentina on Saturday.

    “Well if you have three players watching Ronaldo, what about looking after their other players?” asked Renard.

    “They have so many attacking players, we are playing against European champions tomorrow. Don’t forget in the final of Euro 2016 against France, Ronaldo went off early in the game through injury and his team mates were still able to take the title.

    "Obviously he’s a major player and, together with Messi, the biggest star in this tournament.

    “What we need to do, is get a good night’s sleep and if this is the last time in our careers that we play against Ronaldo, we need to be as good as possible,” Renard said.

    Ronaldo’s hat-trick against Spain on Friday underlined his superstar status and sparked the tournament into life.

    Morocco, who conceded a stoppage time own goal to lose against Iran in their opener, cannot afford a second defeat.

    Read more...
  • WC 2018: Da Costa, the Moroccan lion of Portuguese origin

    (FIFA.com) It is often said that one's country is akin to one's mother, and this is certainly the case for Manuel da Costa. The 32-year-old opted to play for Morocco, the country of his mother’s birth, after earlier representing the youth teams of his father's homeland, Portugal. Now, as fate would have it, the international defender will face Portugal at his first FIFA World Cup™.

    Despite his Portuguese roots, Da Costa told FIFA.com in an exclusive interview that he is proud to represent Morocco at Russia 2018. He also revealed that sentiments in his family would be mixed when the two teams square off at the Luzhniki Stadium on Wednesday - but only for one day.

    "Participating in a World Cup is something huge for me, as I’m representing my country and my roots," said the French-born player. "It's a big honour to wear the Moroccan shirt because, when you participate in this tournament, you are showcasing your country and culture to the world."

    Da Costa, who lined up for the Atlas Lions for the first time in 2014, added: "I was first approached about playing for Morocco by [assistant coach] Mustapha Hadji. After a long discussion with him and the then coach Badou Ezzaki, I was convinced of Morocco's plan and objectives, and since then have had the honour of representing the country."

    Yesterday's team-mates, today's opponents

    Naturally, Manuel da Costa knows a lot about the way Portugal play, especially since some of the current squad were once his team-mates.

    "I played with most of the players when I was young – it would take too long to name them all! However, I remember playing alongside Ricardo Quaresma, Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe and learned a great deal from them."

    The Istanbul Basaksehir player also knows just how strong Portugal are.

    "They’re one of the best in the world, but we won’t focus only on Ronaldo." he said. "We know he’s excellent and surrounded by good players. What’s more important for us, however, is to be focused, precise and have complete solidarity."

    While unity and solidarity will be the Atlas Lions’ watchwords on Wednesday when they attempt to overcome Portugal, feelings will be mixed that day in the Da Costa household.

    "I expect half of my family will support Portugal and the other half Morocco – which will be kind of funny really," he concluded.

    Read more...
  • World Cup Preview: Portugal vs Morocco - Recent Form, Predictions, Team News & More

    Portugal face off against Morocco at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium on Wednesday in Group B's second round of games.

    Portugal will be looking to build on the impressive performance which secured them a valuable point against favourites Spain in their World Cup opener. Cristiano Ronaldo once again showcased his quality and importance to the national side, scoring all three of Portugal's goals in the 3-3 draw.

    Morocco, on the other hand, suffered late heartbreak against Iran in their opening fixture of the tournament. The Lions of the Atlas were the better team for much of the game, but Aziz Bouhaddouz's unfortunate own goal seconds from time meant they left Saint Petersburg with no points. Consequently, Hervé Renard's side will need to beat Portugal in order to stand a chance of progressing to the next round.

    Classic Encounter:

    Portugal and Morocco have met once before back in the 1986 Mexico World Cup.

    The Moroccans were drawn into Group F along with Poland, England and Portugal and, unsurprisingly, they weren't expected to last too long in the competition.

    Nevertheless, two impressive performances against England and Poland had secured them a respectable two points, and they headed into the game against Portugal knowing that a victory would guarantee them a place in the next round.

    Abderrazak Khairi gave Morocco the lead in the 18th minute with a superb 25-yard strike. Just ten minutes later, Khairi was at it again, volleying in a cross from 12 yards out. Amazingly, Morocco continued to dominate and Abdelkrim Merry made it 3-0 in the 60th minute, finishing off a fine flowing move with an equally impressive finish.

    Portugal did get a goal back through Diamantino Miranda in the 80th minute, but it was too little too late and Morocco ran out deserved 3-1 victors to top the group ahead of England.

    Morocco were eventually beaten 1-0 by West Germany in the round of 16.

    Form:

    Recorded last six games:

    Portugal: DWDDLW

    Morocco: LWWDWW

    Team News:

    Both managers will have their whole 23-man squads to pick from with neither side suffering any injuries nor suspensions in their opening games.

    Predicted Lineups:

    Portugal (4-4-2): Patricio; Guerreiro, Fonte, Pepe, Soares; Silva, Moutinho, Carvalho, Fernandes; Silva, Ronaldo

    Morocco (4-2-3-1): Mohamedi; Amrabat, Benatia, Saiss, Hakimi; Boussoufa, Ahmadi; Zlyech, Belhanda, Harit, Kaabi

    Prediction:

    Portugal aren't necessarily a one man team but they are heavily reliant on Cristiano Ronaldo, who isn't immune to having an off day. If Ronaldo performs against Morocco like he did against Spain, his side will stand a great chance of winning.

    Prediction: Portugal 2-1 Morocco

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  • WC 2018: FIFA Writes Letter to FRMF after ‘Shocking’ Medical Treatment of Amrabat

    By Morocco World News

    Rabat – FIFA did not agree with the Moroccan medical staff’s handling of Nordin Amrabat’s injury and has decided to let it be known.

    According to Dutch outlet NOS, the President of the UEFA Medical Committee and member of the FIFA Council, Michel D’Hooghe, has decided to send a letter to the FRMF to express his shock regarding Moroccan medical procedures.

    During the June 15 match that pitted Morocco against Iran in a (1-0) loss, the Moroccan football player left play at the 76th minute after a shock to the head with an Iranian player that left him nearly unconscious.

    Quickly, the medical staff rushed to his assistance. Attempting to keep him awake, they slapped and sprinkled him with water. The actions displeased many on social media, and especially abroad several foreign medias were quick to denounce “the odd method of giving slaps.”

    Speaking with Dutch media, Michel D’Hooghe, expressed outrage when asked about Amrabat’s treatment. “We were shocked when we saw the images and have no understanding of the doctor’s attitude. During a team workshop prior to the World Cup, we gave extensive explanation to the team doctors how to treat a concussion. We immediately wrote a letter to the Moroccans.”

    Last Saturday, the doctor of the national team said that Amrabat should “stop training for a week”. However, as shown in pictures by the Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF), it appears that the midfielder is feeling fine and continuing training.

    According to the national team doctor, Amrabat should still miss the next match of the Atlas Lions against Portugal Wednesday, June 24.

    Read more...

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