• NT: Ait Bennasser facing race to be fit for World Cup

    (BBC Sport) France-born Youssef Ait Bennasser faces a race against time to be fit for Morocco's World Cup campaign

    Youssef Ait Bennasser has been ruled out of action until May with a thigh injury and faces a fight to be fully fit for Morocco's World Cup campaign.

    The 21-year-old midfielder suffered the injury during his French side Caen's 3-0 defeat at Angers last month and was substituted after just 69 minutes.

    "Youssef will be out for five weeks and should be ready for the Monaco match (6 May)," Caen coach Patrice Garande announced ahead of Sunday's fixture against Montpellier.

    Ait Bennasser is expected to return for the last three games of Caen's Ligue 1 season and has only eight days to convince Morocco coach Herve Renard to include him in the Atlas Lions' 35-man provisional squad for Russia.

    The World Cup provisional squad lists - which have increased in size from 30 to 35 players - are required to be submitted by 14 May, with a final 23-man squad list to be finalised on 4 June at the latest.

    Having missed the last two international friendlies against Serbia and Uzbekistan, the France-born player, on loan at Caen from Monaco - must prove his fitness to join the Atlas Lions' World Cup campaign this summer.

    Capped 11 times by Morocco, he has made 22 appearances for his loan club this season in the French top flight.

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  • Moroccans abroad: Morocco star Hakimi keen to stay at Real Madrid

    (Africanfootball.com) Morocco international Achraf Hakimi says he has no intention of leaving the reigning Spanish La Liga champions Real Madrid.

    This is despite recent reports having linked the 19-year-old right-back away from the Spanish capital.

    “I can only see myself playing for Real Madrid, they are the club of my life and I have no intention of leaving at all,” Hakimi told Marca.

    Hakimi is competing with Spain international Dani Carvajal, who is Real's first choice right back.

    “Dani Carvajal is a strong example for me to follow – he came through the academy system like myself and now he is the number one choice and the best right-back," he added.

    “I try to watch Dani all the time and learn from everything he does because I love how he plays and it is what I aspire too.

    The highly-rated defender has made 13 appearances and a goal across all competitions for Zinedine Zidane’s side this season.

    Hakimi will take on Italian giants Juventus in the two-legged quarter-finals of the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League.

    “Zidane was right to start Nacho against Paris Saint-Germain as he did very well and helped us qualify but I will help the coach in any opportunities I can," he added.

    “Juventus? We know it will be difficult, but we have no fears against anyone and our goal is always to qualify.”

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  • NT: Herve Renard satisfied after March friendlies

    (Africanfootball.com) Morocco coach Herve Renard was left satisfied with his team’s performances in the March friendlies, and says he has tough choices ahead in picking the final squad for the 2018 World Cup.

    The Atlas Lions claimed wins over Serbia (2-0) and Uzbekistan (2-1) in Turin and Casablanca respectively, with Renard able to effectively field two completely different teams and run the rule over candidates for the trip to Russia.

    "We are always happy when we manage to win the matches. There is never an easy match, it is difficult or more difficult,” Renard told BeIN Sports.

    “An extensive player review was conducted for these appointments. We had a very good match against Serbia on Friday.

    “Against Uzbekistan, 95 percent of the players had changed. It was important to see everyone, to give everyone the chance to evolve.

    "Now we get to the final stretch, anyway! I have an important vision, but it is not definitive.

    There are two months left, I am hoping there will be no injuries among the players.

    “We have a nice frame, now we will have to make decisive choices on two or three key players. This will be my most important job.”

    Renard will have to submit an initial list of 35 players to FIFA by May 14.

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  • NT: Morocco coach praises new players after win over Uzbekistan

    (Africanfootball.com) Morocco coach Herve Renard has praised the new players who impressed in the Atlas Lions’ 2-0 win over Uzbekistan in an international friendly on Tuesday evening.

    Ayoub El Kaabi and Manuel da Costa scored the goals as the North Africans claimed victory at the Mohamed V Stadium in Casablanca.

    El Kaabi, who was the star of Morocco’s 2018 African Nations Championship triumph, made a strong impression but Renard insists it’s too early to pencil in his name for the final 23-man squad which go to the World Cup in Russia.

    "I cannot tell you if [El Kaabi] won his place in the 23, already, I repeat again, there are many days and weeks that will flow to a first list to be delivered to FIFA around May 13th, so we must continue to follow his evolution with his club,” said the French tactician.

    “I think he was effective today as he has always been with the Moroccan national team at CHAN, but in the movements, synchronisation or complementarity with others, it was not always perfect, it's normal.”

    Other players who stood out were Schalke playmaker Amine Harit and right-back Oualid El Hajjam. Renard was pleased to see the new faces make a claim for inclusion in the squad ahead of Morocco’s trip to Russia 2018.

    "Amine had a very good match, you noticed that he made combinations with Soufiane Boufal, who gave us the advantage in the midfield, but that was not enough,” explained Renard.

    "Today like all nations, there are teams that are emerging. Amine Harit, Achraf Hakimi who was very good tonight, the same goes for the right-back, Oualid El Hajjam, who did the basics.

    “Morocco can be happy and ambitious with these young players who can shake things up in the future.”

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  • NT: Morocco win World Cup warm-ups

    (BBC Sport) Morocco won friendly on Tuesday as they continue their preparations for the 2018 World Cup in Russia in June.

    The Moroccans beat visiting Uzbekistan 2-0.

    Ayoub El Kaabi once again staked a claim for a place in Herve Renard's final Morocco squad for Russia with the opening goal against Uzbekistan after just four minutes.

    It was a first goal at in a full international for the 24-year-old El Kaabi, who impressed at the African Nations Championship as he helped the hosts win the tournament for home-based footballers with nine goals.

    France-born defender Manuel da Costa scored the second to seal the win, which follows the Atlas Lions' 2-1 victory over Serbia in Italy on Friday.

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  • Friendly: Morocco beat Uzbekistan 2-0

    Final Whistle!

    Second half underway!

    Half Time!

    Second goal of Morocco, header of Da Costa in the 43' minute

    3' Ayoub El Kaabi opens the scoring for Morocco 1-0.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tZuGlZIHZ8

    Competition: International friendly

    Kickoff: 19h00 GMT, 21h00 CET

    Morocco starting lineup:

    Munir El Kajoui-El Hajjam Oualid-Da Costa Marouane (C)-Ghanem Saiss-Achraf Hakimi-Soufyan Amrabat-Fayçal Fajr-Amine Harit-Yacine Bammou-Zakaria Labyad-Ayoub El Kaabi.

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  • Adidas Delays Morocco’s FIFA World Cup Kits To ‘Avoid Forgery’

    Rabat – While most of the national squads qualified for the Russian World Cup have recently revealed their home and away kits, or jerseys, for this summer’s tournament, Morocco’s kits have yet to be revealed to the numerous Atlas Lions’ fans anxiously waiting to discover the look and texture of the squad’s Russia 2018 kits.

    Last week, some national outlets even reported on the fans’ frustration and disappointment due to this “unwarranted” delay. Some Moroccan fans on social media, taken with Portugal’s kits and quite outraged about Morocco’s delay, went as far as putting the logo of Morocco’s Royal Football Federation on Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal jersey, suggesting that “this could be Morocco’s kit for this summer tournament.”

    And so, amidst the flurry of speculations and popular irritation at the delay, Adidas, the company in charge of producing and marketing the Atlas Lions’ kits for Russia 2018, recently released the reason for this hold over: counterfeit duplication.

    According to Al Maasae in its March 27 edition, Moroccan footballing authorities and Adidas’s executive committee agreed to delay the official uncovering of the Atlas Lions’ World Cup kits to avoid forgery. They are waiting for the appropriate moment to uncover the kits, Al Massae reported, citing Adidas’ concerns about “counterfeit duplication of the kits,” if uncovered several months before the opening of the Russia FIFA 2018 tournament.

    Al Massae also explained that, although counterfeit production is a common occurrence in Morocco, with a host of forged kits already filling Moroccan shops and passing for the Atlas Lions’ FIFA 2018 official kits, none of the producers has been successful in predicting what the team’s real kits will actually look like. According to Al Massae, Casablanca is full of forgery factories that have caused financial losses for Moroccan clubs like Wydad.

    “But,” Moroccan fans may be asking, “When will they launch it? What exactly do they mean by “appropriate moment?” To that, All Massae and Adidas gave no further details, no clues. So Moroccan fans can admire or dislike the official kits of other national squads while nervously waiting for that of the Atlas Lions.

    https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2018/03/243222/adidas-delays-moroccos-fifa-world-cup-kits-to-avoid-forgery/

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  • Hervé Renard : Atlas Lions need to improve their performance for the 2018 World Cup

    Hervé Renard, the current manager of the Morocco national football team spoke yesterday at a press conference the night before the friendly match between Morocco and Uzbekistan. According to him, the Moroccan national team «must improve its performance in order to compete with the other teams at the World Cup in Russia,» reports EFE.

    Hervé Renard believes that the European players «are faster» than their Moroccan counterparts, and the main objective for the Atlas Lions is «to keep the ball» in front of the Portuguese and Spanish teams.

    The Atlas Lions’ coach had to explain why some players were not on the official list such as Adel Taarabt, Youssef Nassiri and Mehdi Carcela. He indicated that it is going to be «tough» to win and secure a ticket to the second stage of the competition. «There are 23 players for the World Cup in Russia. There will be no room for everyone», he added.

    On the other hand, Hervé Renard had hailed the performance of the international footballer Fayçal Fajr.

    Regarding today's game, the Atlas Lions coach said that Uzbekistan is «a good opponent» and that «it's a good team» that usually has high ball possession.

    ...More : https://en.yabiladi.com/articles/details/63194/herve-renard-atlas-lions-need.html

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  • World Cup 2026: Morocco bids for event, along with US, Mexico & Canada

    (BBC Sport) Mohammed VI, the King of Morocco, has offered his "unconditional support" for the bid and says his country would host the event in "the spirit of peace and tolerance"

    Morocco's "exceptionally low murder rates" and "very low gun circulation" are among the reasons it should be chosen to host the football World Cup in 2026, it says in its bid book.

    The Moroccan Football Federation has submitted one of the two bids for the event, competing with a joint bid from Canada, Mexico and the United States.

    The 2026 World Cup finals will be the first to feature 48 teams.

    World governing body Fifa will announce the tournament host in June.

    Morocco - making a fifth attempt to stage the event - has submitted a 193-page document to Fifa, highlighting why it is "a showcase for the best of football".

    The document says the African nation is "one of the safest countries in the world" and will offer "an ideal security environment" for the tournament.

    Gun law and policy is one of the key political debates in the United States, following several mass shootings in recent years.

    "Exceptionally low murder rates (three per 100,000 people), benefitting from very low gun circulation, are reflected in a United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) study ranking Morocco among the best-performing nations in the world - at the same level as both Denmark and Japan," says the Moroccan bid.

    Mexico had a murder rate of 21 per 100,000 population in 2017 - the highest figure since modern records began in 1997.

    An FBI report said the murder rate in the US was 5.3 per 100,000 people in 2016, while Canada's was 1.68 in 2015, according to UNODC.

    The joint Canadian, Mexican and American bid, submitted in a 530-page document, says each nation's federal government will "dedicate all necessary resources" to ensuring a safe and secure World Cup if it is selected as the 2026 host.

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  • NT: Morocco coach Herve Renard to ring the changes for Uzbekistan

    (Africanfootball.com) Morocco coach Herve Renard says he will make several changes to his starting XI for tomorrow night’s friendly against Uzbekistan in Casablanca.

    The Atlas Lions claimed an impressive 2-1 win over fellow 2018 World Cup qualifiers Serbia in Turin on Friday.

    "There will be a turnover [of players] against Uzbekistan as I often do when we have two close matches like that,” explained Renard.

    “Afterwards, I cannot give you the exact composition of the team.

    “What is certain is that many of the players who were on the bench today [against Serbia] will start the match against Uzbekistan.”

    This means the French tactician is likely to field Amine Harit as well as Zakaria Labyad or Yassin Ayoub, while 2018 African Nations Championship star Ayoub El Kaabi will probably be given a start.

    It has also been revealed that Morocco will face Slovakia and Estonia in World Cup preparation games in early June.

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