• PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Khalid Boutaib - Moroccan striker eager to prove a point in Russia

    Having successfully booked their place at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Morocco are desperate to prove their worth in Russia according to star forward Khalid Boutaib.

    The Atlas Lions enjoyed an almost flawless qualifying campaign, having gone all six games without conceding a goal. They run included three wins and three draws, but the North African's truly flexed their muscles with a 2-0 win over the Ivory Coast in Abidjan.

    Victory over the defending African Cup of Nations holders booked their place at the world showpiece for the first time in 20 years, having last featured at a World Cup in 1998.

    "We will do our best in the upcoming World Cup," Boutaib told France Football.

    "We have to prove our worth in Russia. The players will not head there to make tourism but to prove that we deserve to be in Russia," he concluded.

    The Turkey-based striker played an integral part in Morocco reaching the world showpiece, netting four goals in four games, including a hat-trick in a 3-0 thumping of Gabon in Casablanca.


  • Moroccans Abroad: Amine Harit’s confidence continues to grow

    (schalke04.de) Amine Harit returned to Schalke with a large dose of euphoria stowed safely in his luggage after meeting up with Morocco over the international break. Now he must put the celebrations on hold to focus on the job in hand: facing Hamburger SV this weekend.

    The last time Morocco played in a World Cup finals Amine Harit was just one year old. Next summer, twenty years later, he will likely be involved after Morocco secured a 2-0 win against the Ivory Coast on the final day of qualifying, booking their place at next year’s tournament in Russia. “I have no words for how I’m feeling. It’s an unbelievable success for me, my family, and all Moroccans,” said Harit on his return to the Ruhr Valley.

    It was little more than two months ago that the French-born player decided to pledge his allegiance to ‘The Lions’. “At this point we were second in the table,” said Harit. “That we could turn things around so quickly is simply indescribable.” Despite watching the victory against the Ivory Coast from the bench, Harit was delighted with the result. “At first I was slightly disappointed. But the most important thing was that we achieved this victory.” Harit, who previously represented France at youth level, can’t begin to imagine what it will be like to play on football’s biggest stage: “Although I’ve already contested a World Cup at under-20 level, representing my country’s senior team will be a whole new experience.”

    For now, Harit is keeping his attention on more immediate concerns. “The next international break isn’t until March. Now I will concentrate fully on Schalke, because there are important weeks ahead. We want to further increase our confidence,” explained the 20-year-old, who recently overcame a minor problem sustained in the week leading up to the Freiburg match. “I feel 100% fit.”

    Next up, Schalke will face Hamburg (Sunday 19.11., 15:30 CET), a team who come to the VELTINS-Arena “urgently needing points,” according to Harit, who added: “It will be a difficult game. Even if some of the internationals start training later, we have to work meticulously to ensure we are well prepared.” Harit is looking for the team to build on their performances over the past few weeks. “At home, it’s always our aim to win. We want to continue our run.”

  • NT: Munir El Haddadi hopes FIFA allows Morocco switch

    Barcelona forward Munir El Haddadi is hopeful that FIFA will grant him clearance to represent Morocco at the 2018 World Cup.

    Munir, 22, played for Spain at youth level and made a sole appearance with La Roja in September 2014 but the Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF) has invited him to switch allegiances to the nation of his father's birth.

    "The Moroccan Football Federation contacted me and told me I had options to play for them," Munir, whose father is Moroccan, told Onda Cero radio.

    "I was very happy and I like the idea very much. We've been in contact and I gave them authorisation for them to begin the process.

    "They told me that they are going to do all they can for me to be with them."

    Munir would need FIFA clearance to represent Morocco as he played for Spain in official competition.

    He earned his solitary Spain cap at the age of 18 when he came on as a second-half substitute in a Euro 2016 qualifying win over Macedonia.

    FIFA's rules state: "Any player who has already participated in a match (either in full or in part) in an official competition of any category or any type of football for one association may not play an international match for a representative team of another association."

    Munir said: "FIFA have not contacted me yet. I've spoken to the [Morocco] national team coach [Herve Renard] and he says they are going to move everything along."

    The Madrid-born Munir says he does not regret playing for Spain.

    "I'm very grateful to the Spanish national team, they treated me well," he said.

    Munir is hopeful FIFA will allow him to switch from Spain to Morocco.

    "It would be beautiful and a dream come true to play at a World Cup," he said. "Morocco have a good team and they can do well."

    He has scored one goal and set up two more in nine league appearances since joining Alaves on a season-long loan from Barca this summer.

    Morocco will play at a World Cup for the first time since 1998 after beating Ivory Coast 2-0 on Nov. 11 to finish top of Group C. The Atlas Lions did not concede a goal in six qualifying games.


  • NT: Herve Renard Set to Extend Contract with Atlas Lions

    By Morocco World News

    Rabat – After leading a marvellous season with the Atlas Lions, Morocco’s football team coach Herve Renard is expected to extend his contract until 2022, according to some local media outlets.

    The Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF), however, has not said anything yet regarding Renard’s contract extension. Currently, Renard’s contract with the Moroccan team is due to end in June 2018.

    The 49-year-old Frenchman took over as Morocco’s coach in 2016, succeeding former coach Badou Ezzaki.

    With his rich experience in the field, Renard helped his team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup after great performances against other African teams, including Mali, Gabon and Cote d’Ivoire.

    After the final qualifier against Cote d’Ivoire, the coach has expressed his satisfaction over the Moroccan team, whose “combativeness and selflessness have been key to qualifying and winning today against Ivory Coast.”

    The best is yet to come, as the Moroccan team is determined to achieve more wins in order to both raise the Moroccan flag in the World Cup in Russia and make its fans proud.

    Morocco’s win over Cote d’Ivoire is still making headlines in both Moroccan and international news outlets. Morocco is now among four other African countries that will participate in the tournament: Nigeria, Senegal, Tunisia, and Egypt.

  • World Cup power rankings: how the 32 qualifiers for Russia shape up

    (The Guardian) The teams who are heading for the 2018 World Cup finals have all been in action over the past week and while Germany and Brazil lead the way there are plenty of other sides who will fancy their chances in Russia.

    18) Morocco

    Back at the World Cup for the first time since 1998, Hervé Renard’s side came through a tricky group without conceding a goal. The 2-0 victory over Ivory Coast in Abidjan was a masterclass in defensive organisation from their French manager, who has excelled in international football but struggled to replicate that at club level. Renard received a phone call from Morocco’s King Mohammed VI after that match to congratulate him on the achievement but the Atlas Lions will not just be making up the numbers in Russia, with talented players in every position who could make quite an impact.

    Player to watch Hakim Ziyech


  • WC 2018: Pots announced for Final Draw

    (FIFA.com) With Peru completing the line-up of 32 teams for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, we now know the seeding pots for the Final Draw on 1 December.

    It was confirmed in September, by the Organising Committee for FIFA Competitions, that all teams will be allocated to (eight-team) pots 1 to 4 based on sporting principles. The October 2017 edition of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking will be used to allocate all qualified teams to the four pots according to their ranking in descending order, after hosts Russia who take the top seeding spot.

    It is worth remembering that the principle of drawing the teams into the groups will remain unchanged. This means that no teams from the same confederation, with the exception of UEFA, which could have up to two teams in the same group, will be drawn into the same group.

    The Final Draw will take place on Friday 1 December at Moscow’s State Kremlin Palace.

  • NT: Moroccan Football Team to Play 5 Friendlies Before 2018 World Cup

    (Morocco World News) Rabat – The Moroccan national football team is set to play five friendly games before heading to Russia for the 2018 World Cup.

    According to Moroccan daily Assabah, the Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF) will attend the tournament’s draw on December 1 in Moscow to decide which teams will play friendlies with the Atlas lions.

    The newspaper reported that Morocco’s team manager Herve Renard wants his team to play against two European and a Latin American squad to evaluate his players’ strengths and weaknesses.

    Earlier this year, speculations were spread by international sports outlets that the Moroccan team would play two friendlies against Scotland and Argentina.

    In an interview with Moroccan sports channel Arriyadia on November 1, FRMF President Fouzi Lekjaa confirmed that the Moroccan squad will face Argentina in a friendly in Agadir next March.

    FRMF is seeking to promote its candidacy for the organization of the 2026 World Cup through the Morocco-Argentina friendly.

    “It has been a while that we’re working on taking it to the next level for the Moroccan team in terms of the friendly games,” Lekjaa said.

    All the Latin American team’s stars will be there, including FC Barcelona‘s living legend Lionel Messi, whom the FRMF insisted would attend to promote the event abroad, according to Lekjaa.

    The last time Morocco and Argentina met was in April 2004 in Casablanca in another friendly game. The visiting team won the match 1-0.

    The upcoming friendlies will also help the team to prepare themselves for the world tournament.

  • NT: Saudi Arabia Invites Morocco’s National Football Team to Perform Umrah

    By Morocco World News

    Rabat – Saudi Arabia has invited the Atlas Lions to perform the Umrah pilgrimage, in appreciation of their qualification over the weekend to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

    The invitation has not yet been officially made, but it was announced by Turki Al-Cheikh, the sports advisor to the royal cabinet of Saudi Arabia, on his official Twitter account on November 13.

    Both the Atlas Lions and the Tunisian Carthage Eagles were invited to perform the religious pillar after booking their tickets to the World Cup in Russia next summer.

    “I am pleased to send an invitation to the Tunisian and Moroccan national teams to visit the kingdom and do Umrah, on the occasion of their qualification to the 2018 World Cup,” the royal advisor wrote.

    Morocco and Tunisia have won their tickets for the World Cup in Russia, alongside Egypt and Saudi Arabia, marking the first time that four Arab speaking countries have qualified for the FIFA World Cup.

    Morocco ended their 20-year wait for a World Cup place after defeating Cote d’Ivoire 2-0 on Saturday to lead Group C with 12 points from six games.

    On the same day, Tunisia settled for a 0-0 draw against Libya to make their first World Cup appearance since 2006.

  • NT: Munir El Haddadi makes formal request to play for Morocco

    The forward, who made one appearance for Spain at full international level, has asked the FRMF to support him in his bid to play for Morocco.

    Munir el Haddadi has contacted the Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF) to ask for their support in his petition to FIFA to allow him to play for Morocco, local daily Assabah reports today.

    The Moroccan daily affirmed that the Barcelona forward, who is currently on loan at Alavés, has also visited FIFA officials in person to appeal that they "defend the rights of binational players".

    Munir made his debut for Spain in 2014

    Born to Moroccan parents in San Lorenzo del Escorial just north of Madrid, Munir represented Spain at youth level and made just one, brief appearance at full international level - in Spain's first Euro 2016 qualifier, against Macedonia on 8 September 2014. He came on a substitute on 77 minutes, replacing Koke in the 5-1 win.

    He was hardly on the pitch for 13 minutes and he has never played for Spain since, but that short and sweet debut means that, under FIFA regulations, he now cannot be naturalised to be able to play for any other national team - despite his pleas to change his sport nationality. In declaration published by Assabah, Munir said that he doesn't understand why his 13-minute appearance for Spain should count so much for world football's governing body.

    Munir wants to go to World Cup Russia with Morocco

    Munir is keen to go to next year's World Cup finals with Morocco, who booked their ticket with a 0-2 win over Ivory Coast at the weekend.

    The FRMF have voiced their interest in incorporating Munir on many occasions and have repeatedly made requests to the RFEF in Madrid to relinquish the player's sporting passport. If he gets his wish and FIFA allow him to switch nationalities, Munir would have to fight for a place in the Morocco side with players suchs as Khalid Boutaïb (the team's top scorer in qualifying), the promising Achraf Bencharki and wingers Nordin Amrabat and Hakim Ziyech.

    So far this season, Munir has played nine matches with Alavés, eight of which in the starting line-up, and has scored one goal.



    (Goal.com) The north Africans have touched down in the Edo state capital ahead of Saturday's crucial qualifier against Christopher Danjuma's ladies

    Morocco U20 women landed in Benin City for the second round, the second leg of the U20 Women's World Cup qualifier against Nigeria on Saturday.

    The Moroccan delegation made up of 22 players and five officials arrived in Lagos on Wednesday morning and later connected to Benin City, venue of the match.

    The north Africans led 1-0 after a goal from Sedki Nouhaila, but the Falconets came back to secure a draw thanks to Rasheedat Ajibade at Stade Boubker Amar.


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