• Transfers: Benfica planning Ziyech swoop

    (Football Oranje) According to reports in Portugal, Ajax midfielder Hakim Ziyech is a top transfer target for Benfica.

    The Moroccan international is heading for the Ajax exit this summer and has been heavily linked with AS Roma.

    However, a move to Portugal could be on the cards with Correio da Manhã reporting that Benfica are very interested in signing Ziyech this summer,

    Benfica are expected to lose Anderson Talisca this summer and hope a deal could generate €35 million. They would then use this money to fund a move for Ziyech.

    The 25-year-old still has three years to run on his Ajax contract and the club are reportedly wanting at least €30 million to part with their star.

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  • WC 2026: Morocco bid to host 2026 World Cup passes FIFA test

    (Sky Sports) Morocco's bid to host the 2026 World Cup has passed crucial evaluation tests from FIFA.

    It means there will now be a vote at FIFA Congress between Morocco and a joint bid from the USA, Mexico and Canada for the right to host the tournament.

    The vote will take place in Moscow on June 13, just a day before the opening game of the Russia 2018 World Cup when the hosts play Saudi Arabia.

    The FIFA Evaluation Task Force has inspected both bids and visited the countries involved.

    There had been concerns that should the Task Force think one of the bids has not satisfied its criteria, it would remove them from the voting process.

    Both bids claim they can successfully host the tournament in 2026, however, FIFA president Gianni Infantino is thought to prefer the combined North American candidacy, largely due to the amount of money a World Cup in the region could generate.

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  • NT: Coach Hervé Renard Confident for World Cup after Morocco-Ukraine Game

    By Morocco World News -

    Rabat – Hervé Renard is not worried about the Atlas Lions. The national team will face their three opponents in the group stage of the 2018 World Cup with great motivation while being aware of their qualities, said national coach Hervé Renard Thursday night.

    At a press briefing after the friendly game between Morocco and Ukraine at the Geneva stadium that ended in a scoreless draw, the French coach assured that “the national team will continue to prepare with a crescendo to be ready on June 15.”

    Referring to the performance of the Moroccan team, Renard explained that most of them arrived after the end of their international championships for a first warm-up match against a good Ukrainian team.

    “The important thing is to keep our way of working. It’s about making defensive adjustments,” he said, while noting that some players are “less ready than others,” which he calls it “normal at this stage.”

    Placed in Group B, the Atlas Lions will play their first game on June 15 in St. Petersburg against Iran. They will play their second group match against the Portuguese five days later on June 20 at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow. The Lions will close their first-round experience on June 25 with a game against Spain in Kaliningrad.

    Hervé Renard said on Wednesday that he wants to makesome adjustments before the double friendly confrontation against Slovakia June 4, and against Estonia June 9.

    When asked about the Ramadan fast and its impact on the players’ performance, Renard said that he “will let people who know better than him to take care of this sensitive subject.”

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  • MOROCCAN WELL OILED Achraf Hakimi: He’s the galloping Real Madrid right back set for a starring role with Morocco at World Cup 2018

    He made his debut in La Liga and the Champions League this term, and has already been capped by the North Africans seven times aged just 19.

    REMEMBER the name, behold his astonishing talent.

    Morocco defender Achraf Hakimi could be a stand out star for the North Africans in Russia at this summer's World Cup.

    He showed fleeting glimpses of his ability for Real Madrid this term, even making his Champions League debut against Spurs at Wembley.

    But don't be deterred by the disappointing 1-1 home draw Los Blancos laboured to because Hakimi gave a good account of himself that night.

    The 19-year-old marauding right back has the ability to play at centre half and bags of potential to make it at the top level of the game.

    Born in Getafe, near Madrid, Hakimi could've represented La Roja.

    However, his parents are both from Morocco which was something the Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF) were only too aware of.

    They courted Hakimi from his early teens and convinced the wonderkid his future would be better served with them.

    And you have to have made them right, because seven caps later he's a fully-fledged international.

    He made his full international debut, coming on as a substitute in the Atlas Lions’ 4-0 win over Canada, aged just 17, well before he got a start at the Santiago Bernabeu.

    It made him Real Madrid’s first ever Moroccan international and helped him win the country’s Most Promising Young Player award.

    Hakimi joined Real Madrid’s La Fabrica academy in July 2006 and played alongside Zinedine Zidane’s son Luca in their youth set up.

    That gave him the perfect platform to showcase his skill in front of his future

    coach.

    With competition for the right back spot at Real fierce, Hakimi had to play deputy to Dani Carvajal in the star-studded squad.

    But when Carvajal was absent against Espanyol back in October, Hakimi stepped into his shoes to make a solid debut.

    'Arra', as he is affectionately known to his teammates had bided his time, but it was worth it.

    He was offered the chance at the beginning of the season to move to Alaves on a season-long loan to gain valuable first team experience.

    But when Danilo was sold to Manchester City, manager Zinedine Zidane stepped in and asked Hakimi to reconsider.

    He guaranteed him up to 20 games if he stayed put.

    Hakimi has played 17 games in all competitions for Real this season, scoring two goals.

    And back to that starring role against Spurs last October...

    There was a moment in the game where Hakimi showed what he's capable of.

    Retrieving the ball on the wing, he drop-kicked a cross right on the head of Cristiano Ronaldo whose subsequent header banged off the upright.

    His athleticism, skill and ingenuity was there to see, in all its glory in one take.

    Hakimi is set to become the youngest ever Real Madrid player to feature in a World Cup Finals come June, beating the record of Sergio Ramos who turned out for Spain in 2006.

    If he has half the career his defensive teammate has had, he'll certainly be able to hold his head high.

    https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/football/6409442/achraf-hakimi-real-madrid-morocco-world-cup-2018/

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  • 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

    Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

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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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