• Press review: World Cup-bound Morocco held 0-0 by Ukraine in friendly

    GENEVA (AP) Morocco could not turn its neat creative play into goals as it was held to a 0-0 draw against Ukraine in a World Cup warm-up friendly on Thursday.

    Ajax winger Hakim Ziyech was twice denied by saves from Ukraine goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov, who pushed away a powerful rising shot in the 83rd minute and parried a first-half effort against the post. They were among the few clear chances for the Moroccans.

    Morocco wing-back Hamza Mendyl provided the cross for Ziyech’s first effort, and impressed at both ends. Mendyl also made a key tackle to deny Ukraine its clearest shooting chance in the second half, taking the ball off the toes of Brazil-born forward Marlos.

    Morocco is in World Cup Group B with Spain and Portugal, and kicks off against Iran on June 15, the second day of the tournament.

    Veteran midfielder M’bark Boussoufa linked most of Morocco’s best work in a compact midfield that allowed Younes Belhanda a free role.

    Coach Herve Renard tested a three-man central defense in the first half, while resting Achraf Hakimi from the starting lineup. The teenage Real Madrid full-back was given extra days off after being with his Champions League-winning club.

    Captain Mehdi Benatia took the right-sided role in a formation that lasted only until the Juventus player was substituted at halftime. Hakimi came on at right-back in a four-man defense that let him race forward in support of attacks.

    Morocco returns to Geneva on Monday to play Slovakia, completing its training camp in the Swiss Alps.

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  • Morocco 0-0 Ukraine: Atlas Lions held in Geneva as they extend their unbeaten streak to 16 matches before first World Cup appearance in 20 years

    Morocco continued preparations for their first World Cup appearance in 20 years with a goalless draw against Ukraine on Thursday night.

    Looking to build on their pair of March victories over Russia-bound Serbia and Uzbekistan at Stade de Geneve in Geneva, the Atlas Lions, eliminated at the group stage on their fourth World Cup appearance in 1998, could not find a way past Andriy Shevchenko's side but did extend their formidable unbeaten streak to 16 matches.

    Herve Renard's team contest further warm-up friendlies against Slovakia and Estonia in Geneva and Tallinn before opening their difficult Group B campaign against Iran in Saint Petersburg on June 15.

    They meet European champions Portugal in Moscow on June 20 before taking on Spain in Kaliningrad five days later.

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-5792455/Morocco-0-0-Ukraine-Atlas-Lions-extend-unbeaten-streak-16-matches-World-Cup-return.html#ixzz5H73zfDc3

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  • Friendly: Morocco and Ukraine play goalless draw

    Final Whistle!

    91' Bouhaddouz heads wide

    86' Hakimi clears danger

    84' Good shot by Ziyech blocked by the Ukraine goalie

    83' injured Mendyl replaced by Soufyan Amrabat

    73' Karim El Ahmadi replaced by Ait Bennasser while Fayçal Fajr replaced Nourdin Amrabat

    64' Aziz Bouhaddouz replaced Belhanda

    60' Belhanda booked

    57' Good save from Hamza Mendyl

    57' Belhanda shoots off target

    48' Free kick for Ukraine

    Amine Harit replaced Khalid Boutaib and Achraf Hakimi replaced Benatia

    Second half underway!

    Half Time!

    36' Amrabat shoots wide

    35' Good Save from Munir

    30' Good chance for Boussoufa

    22' Ziyech hit the post!

    7' Great chance to score for Ziyech wasted

    Match is underway!

    Location: Stade de Geneve, Switzerland

    Competition: Friendly

    Kick off: 18h00 GMT, 19h00 UK, 20h00 CET

    Morocco starting line up:

    Munir-Benatia (C)-Saiss-Da Costa-Mendyl-Belhanda-El Ahmadi-N. Amrabat-Boussoufa-Ziyech-Boutaib

    Subs:

    Bounou-Tagnaouti-Banoun-Hakimi-Fajr-Harit-S. Amrabat-El Kaabi-Bouhaddouz-Ait Bennasser-Dirar-Carcela-El Hajjam-En Neysiri-Mazraoui

    Coach: Herve Renard

    Referee: Sander Scharer

    Live Streaming Video: http://snrtlive.ma/

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  • Transfers: Standard de Lige signs Carcela untill 2021

    (TheAtlasLions.com) Belgian top flight team Standard de Liege have signed Moroccan international Mehdi Carcela (28) on a permanent deal untill June 2021.

    Carcela played with Standard on loan from Granada last season.

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  • Transfers: Arsenal given huge boost in pursuit of star Serie A centre-back

    (Team Talk) Arsenal’s chances of landing Mehdi Benatia have been given a boost, according to Calciomercato.

    The centre-back joined Juventus in 2016, but could be set to leave after just two seasons.

    Calciomercato claims that Juventus are searching for replacements in case Benatia does depart – but he is not yet on the transfer list.

    Arsenal are interested in the 31-year-old, but they face competition from Benatia’s first club, Marseille.

    The Morocco captain could be considering his future after the World Cup.

    He made 20 appearances for Max Allegri’s side this season, less than fellow centre-backs Daniele Rugani, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini.

    Juventus would likely want more than £20m for the defender, who scored two goals in this season’s Coppa Italia final.

    Arsenal are also hopeful of signing another Juventus defender, Stephan Lichtsteiner, on a free transfer, when his contract expires in June.

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  • World Cup Group B preview: Atlas Lions look forward to upsetting group favourites with compact defense

    (Xinhua) -- Led by two-time Africa Cup of Nations winning coach Herve Renard, Morocco will return to the World Cup after an absence of 20 years. The Atlas Lions will be hoping to repeat their achievement from the 1986 World Cup when they surged into the last 16.

    Unusually for a national team, over half the players heading to Russia were born outside of Morocco, in either France, Spain, or the Netherlands. However, FIFA rules on nationality and citizenship allow them to represent the north African country internationally.

    Renard's side are grouped with the 2010 World Cup winners Spain, European Championship title holders Portugal and Asian powerhouse Iran in a tough Group B. With the Iberian duo widely considered strong favorites to progress far into the knock-out stages of the tournament, the Atlas Lions arrive in Russia as considerable underdogs, and will have to play very well to be in with a chance of making the last 16.

    In the face of such tough opposition, a defensive style of play will be the order of the day, which Morocco have been well versed in recent months.

    In their last round of qualification, Renard's men finished top of a group containing Cote d'Ivoire, Gabon and Mali, maintaining a six-game unbeaten run without conceding a single goal and scoring 11 in the process.

    Under the management of Renard, the only man to ever win the African Cup of Nations with two different countries (Zambia and Cote d'Ivoire), the Atlas Lions play possession-based football and press aggressively in defence.

    Juventus center-back Medhi Benatia, 31, anchors a well-rounded and organized defense and is certainly the most decorated squad member. A former Italian Serie A all-star player, Benatia also captains the team and his leadership both on and off the pitch will be crucial to any success the Atlas Lions have. Benatia will face his former Bayern Munich teammate Thiago when Morocco take on Spain.

    Further forward, 25-year-old Ajax midfielder Hakim Ziyech is the fulcrum of Morocco's attacking play. The former Netherlands U-21 international scored nine goals and made a league-leading 15 assists in the Dutch Eredivisie this season, being named Dutch Footballer of the Year for his troubles. Morocco will be looking to his vision and creativity if they are to spring any surprises in Russia.

    Elsewhere, rising star Achraf Hakimi has just lifted the Champions League trophy with La Liga giants Real Madrid. The Spanish-born wing-back made his senior debut for the Los Blancos earlier this season and has proven an able deputy for Dani Carvajal.

    On the only previous occasion Morocco advanced into the World Cup's second stage, they held England and Poland to goalless draws before defeating Portugal to top their group. And if the Atlas Lions are to repeat the heroics of 32 years ago in Russia this summer, perhaps another victory against Portugal may be necessary.

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  • Moroccans Abroad: Amine Harit is “Rookie of the season”

    A few weeks before the World Cup, Amine Harit has received an extra bit of motivation. The Morocco international has been voted the Bundesliga’s “Rookie of the Season”. The 20-year-old saw off seven other nominees to claim the title.

    Also in contention were Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho and Dan-Axel Zagadou, Eintracht Frankfurt’s Sebastian Haller, HSV pair Jann-Fiete Arp and Tatsuya Ito, VfB Stuttgart’s Benjamin Pavard and Hertha BSC’s Valentino Lazaro.

    Harit’s victory is also backed up by the numbers. No other Bundesliga player dribbled past more players than Harit who had 115 successful dribbles over the course of the season. The Schalke man was seemingly impossible to stop through fair means as both he and Kevin-Prince Boateng were fouled a joint league best 94 times this season, an average of once every 24 minutes.

    Only set-piece takers Daniel Caligiuri and Bastian Oczipka created more shooting chances than Harit in the team and Harit created the most clear goalscoring opportunities out of any member of the Knappen’s squad.

    https://schalke04.de/en/inside-en/amine-harit-rookie-season/

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  • Transfers: Roma talks for Ziyech

    By Football Italia staff

    Dutch reports claim Roma are in negotiations for both Ajax talents Justin Kluivert and Hakim Ziyech.

    The interest is not new, but Dutch site vi.nl claim that 25-year-old Ziyech is edging closer to the Giallorossi.

    The creative midfielder has said several times he wants to leave this summer and would welcome a move to Roma.

    Ajax are more likely to let Ziyech leave than his teammate, 19-year-old striker Kluivert – the son of ex-Milan forward Patrick Kluivert.

    Ziyech is a Morocco international, born in the Netherlands, who has an impressive seven goals in 13 senior caps.

    Roma already bolstered their squad today by signing 20-year-old Croatian talent Ante Coric from Dinamo Zagreb for €8m.

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  • WC 2018 warming ups: Iran defeated and Portugal held by Tunisians in friendlies

    Turkey national football team defeated Iran 2-1 in a friendly match thanks to Cenk Tosun brace Monday night.

    Meanwhile Portugal have surrendered a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at home to Tunisia in their World Cup warm-up friendly in Braga this evening.

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  • Transfers: Al Dhafra sign Attouchi

    Gulf News

    Abu Dhabi: Al Dhafra have signed Moroccan defender Amine Attouchi from Morocco’s Wydad Casablanca on a three-year deal.

    The 26-year-old is the club’s third signing after Portuguese forward Helder Guedes joined from Portugal’s Rio Ave last week followed by Uruguayan midfielder Nicolas Milesi from Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal.

    Al Dhafra finished just one point above the relegation zone last season and have since replaced Macedonian coach Gjoko Hadzievski with Serbian Vuk Rasovic. They look to confirm their fourth and final foreigner this week.

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