• CAF: Video technology to be used for the first time in Africa at CHAN

    (BBC Sport) Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology will be used for the first time at an African tournament at next year's African Nations Championship (CHAN) in Morocco.

    Its use was confirmed by the Confederation of African Football's (Caf) Referees' Committee at a meeting on 27 November in Cairo, Egypt.

    The experiment with VAR will start at the quarter final stage of the tournament that kicks off on 13 January.

    Each of the four host cities in Morocco, Casablanca, Marrakech, Tangiers and Agadir, will host a quarter-final match.

    The continent's referees set to officiate at the World Cup Russia 2018 and with those with previous training in VAR will be called upon for the tournament designed exclusively for footballers playing in their domestic leagues.

    VAR was first used at a global tournament at the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia, with mixed reviews.

    Football's world governing body, Fifa, wants to use the system at next year's World Cup finals.

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  • Labyad: ”I practice free kicks a lot and it pays dividends”

    (Football-Oranje.com) FC Utrecht midfielder Zakaria Labyad spoke to the NOS after FC Utrecht’s 3-1 win away to Sparta Rotterdam.

    Labyad scored the quickest goal of the season in the Eredivisie, netting after only 37 seconds to put Utrecht ahead, before he added another in the second half with a free-kick.

    After the game, Labyad said, ”We played well as team today and going 1-0 up so quickly helped us. It was a shame that we could not extend our lead to 2 or 3-0 before half-time.

    ”We let Sparta Rotterdam back into the game as they came on the counter-attack.

    ”With my free-kick, I initially wanted to lay the ball off for my teammate. But I decided to shoot because I felt that we were playing at a too low tempo in order to go 2-1 up.

    ”I practice a lot of free-kicks with teammates and that pays dividends.

    ”I am in form but I receive a lot of support from my teammates and I am grateful for that. There is good communication in our team.”

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  • CAF Awards: L'Houssaine Amoutta, Wydad Casablanca, Bencherki, Ounnajem and El Ahamdi nominated

    (TheAtlasLions.com) Morocco international and Feyenoord midfielder Karim El Ahmadi has been nominated for African player of the Year award while Wydad Casablanca was nominated for Club of the Year Award and Achraf Bencherki and Mohamed Ounnajem have been both nominated for African player of the Year based in Africa award.

    And Wydad Casablanca coach L'Houssaine Amoutta was nominated for Coach of the Year Award.

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  • Benatia: "We never looked threatened"

    "We did very well at the back and with the quality we have up top we’re always going to score," said the Bianconeri defender

    Medhi Benatia praised his Juventus team-mates after they kept a clean sheet in a comfortable 3-0 win over Crotone at Allianz Stadium on Sunday night.

    "We never looked threatened in the first half and moved the ball well against a very organised team who kept every man behind the ball," said the defender, who scored his first goal of the season to cap the Bianconeri win.

    The Moroccan stressed the importance of keeping it tight at the back in order to provide Juve’s attacking players with a platform to go on and find the net.

    "They got tired after the break and we found the breakthrough with Mario [Mandzukic]," he said. "It was a really important goal because it came at a delicate time. We’ve not conceded in two games now and we need to keep this up going forward, because if we do well in defence then with the quality we have up top we’re always going to score."

    The win leaves Juventus four points behind Napoli ahead of Friday night’s showdown at the Stadio San Paolo.

    "They’re playing well and having an excellent season, but we can go there and get the win – that’s our objective," explained Benatia.

    http://www.juventus.com/en/news/news/2017/benatia-we-never-looked-threatened.php

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  • Eredivisie: Labyad inspires Utrecht to win over Sparta

    (Football-Oranje.com) A Zakaria Labyad double helped Utrecht to a 3-1 win over Sparta Rotterdam which ended the home side’s four-game unbeaten run.

    Labyad missed last weekend’s match with Excelsior but back in the starting line up the midfielder needed only 37 seconds to open the scoring. Sparta lost the ball from the kick-off allowing Gyrano Kerk to break quickly and set up Labyad, who fired into the net.

    Utrecht could have made it 2-0 before the break but Urby Emanuelson headed wide, while Yassin Ayoub had a strike kept out by Roy Kortsmit.

    Sparta struggled to create chances but ten minutes into the second half they were level when Robert Muhren crossed for Nick Proschwitz to tap in from close range.

    Both sides then missed great chances before Labyad fired Utrecht back in front with a free-kick, which Kortsmit should have saved but the goalkeeper appeared to be afraid of colliding with the post. Kerk then sealed the victory late on, outpacing the Sparta defence before slotting the ball into the net.

    The win lifts Utrecht to fifth while Sparta stay 14th.

    See goal: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6almac

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  • Ammouta: We can beat Pachuca

    (FIFA.com) When Wydad kicked off in the 2017 CAF Champions League, few predicted that their trail would end in glory. The naysayers were soon left eating their words as Lhoussaine Ammouta and his players proved everyone wrong, lifting the trophy thanks to a solid defence, clinical attack and all-round application. It was a stunning success, and one that owed much to a coach capable of getting the best out of his charges.

    That tale of triumph could so easily have been different, however. The Moroccan outfit's route to the title was littered with obstacles, and their campaign almost ended before it had begun. "In the first round, we played against Gabonese side Mounana," says Ammouta, in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. "We beat them (1-0) in Casablanca, but we had to get through a penalty shoot-out to qualify over there."

    Wydad were then drawn in a tough group along with Egyptian club Al Ahly, Cameroonian hopefuls Coton Sport and Zambia's Zanaco. Despite the experience of their section rivals, Wydad defied the odds by clinching top spot.

    "We won our first match against Coton Sport and then lost against Zanaco and Al Ahly," recalls Ammouta. "That left us in third place and needing to win our last three games to qualify. Thanks to God, we managed to beat Al Ahly (2-0) and then won by the same scoreline away to Coton Sport. We finished off by getting a tough (1-0) victory against Zanaco, who were top of the group, and that sealed our place in the next round."

    Champions deposed

    If Wydad were hoping for an easier challenge at the start of the knockout phase, they were soon to be disappointed. Instead, Ammouta and Co were pitted against the holders themselves, Mamelodi Sundowns. "Sundowns were the reigning champions and had several experienced internationals in their ranks," explains the Wydad coach. "It was a difficult quarter-final. We lost by a single goal away but won by the same scoreline at home, before going through on penalties."

    Even that was not their stiffest test. For Ammouta, Wydad's greatest challenge came in the semi-finals. "It was the tie against USM Alger, who have a fearsome attack, a talented midfield and top-qualify full-backs. We were lucky enough to get a draw in Algeria, and then we got two early goals in the return game. Amine Atouchi's red card allowed them to reduce the deficit, but we scored a third goal in the closing moments to relieve the pressure."

    The home side needed all their mental strength to emerge victorious, and their resilience was called upon again in the final. "We faced Al Ahly after their big win (6-2) against Etoile du Sahel, and we were playing at their Borg El Arab stadium," says Ammouta. "We conceded a goal in the second minute, but our strength of character allowed us to equalise in the 15th. That goal gave us confidence, despite Mohammed Ounnajem, one of our best players, picking up an injury.

    "The pressure was intense in the return game and we struggled to begin with against a well-organised side. We hit the crossbar and then opened the scoring through Walid El Karti after a pass by Achraf Bencherki. Thanks to the support of our fans, we ended up winning the title."

    Representing Morocco and Africa

    As continental champions, Wydad now face the heavy responsibility of representing Africa at the FIFA Club World Cup, which Ammouta considers one of the finest tournaments in football. "It's an honour for me, as a Moroccan coach, and for us, as a Moroccan club, to take part in the Club World Cup," he says. "It's a competition that brings together teams from every continent, including Real Madrid. It's also a responsibility because we have to live up to the standard of Moroccan and African football."

    His side kick off in the United Arab Emirates against Pachuca, and Ammouta has already started to analyse the Mexican club. "They've appeared in this competition five times previously and they have very good players in midfield and attack," he says. "But I still think Wydad can win, thanks to our potential."

    Beyond that initial challenge, Wydad are aiming high. "We're targeting the final," says Ammouta. "We can't afford to make too many mistakes because the minor details make all the difference in football. Our players acquired lots of experience in the Champions League and now hope to sign for clubs abroad. They can show what they're capable of in this competition and catch the eye of the big European teams. Their desire to progress ought to help us get good results in the Emirates."

    The match

    Pachuca-Wydad (9 December, 17:00 local time), Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi

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  • FIFA Ranking: The Morocco national football team advances in the latest FIFA ranking

    Morocco’s national football team has advanced in the latest FIFA ranking. Positioned 40th in the world, the Atlas Lions managed to climb 8 places in the list.

    Beating the Ivorian team in Abidjan at the beginning of the month and being qualified for the 2018 World Cup to be hosted in Russia has certainly been behind Morocco’s ranking.

    Regionally, the national team was ranked fifth in Africa, followed by Senegal (23rd), Tunisia (27th), Egypt (31st) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (36th).

    The ranking was topped by Germany 1st, followed by Brazil 2nd, Portugal 3rd, and Argentina 4th.

    ...More : https://en.yabiladi.com/articles/details/59579/morocco-national-football-team-advances.html

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  • NT: Peace offering helps Morocco rally to reach World Cup

    (Reuters) - A peace offering in an Amsterdam coffee shop proved a catalyst for Morocco's late rally to success in the World Cup qualifiers and their first appearance at the finals in 20 years since the 1998 tournament in France.

    Coach Herve Renard travelled to the Netherlands in mid-year for a make-up meeting with maverick midfield talent Hakim Ziyech, who had quit the team after Renard left him out of the squad for the African Nations Cup at the start of the year.

    Dutch-born Ziyech, 24, returned to the side with immediate effect and scored twice in a decisive 6-0 home win over Mali in September that proved the turning point of the campaign.

    Ziyech is among a bevy of talented midfielders who make the Moroccan side tick along with Mbark Boussoufa, also born in the Netherlands, and French-born Younes Belhanda.

    Morocco have dipped extensively in the Diaspora with players born to immigrant parents in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain strengthening the squad.

    Morocco's federation actively pursues European-born players with potential, tugging at family loyalties and nationalistic sentiment.

    Southampton's Sofiane Boufal, Morocco's key attacker, spent a year deciding whether to try and make the France team or opt for Morocco before Renard, who coached him at Lille, persuaded him to join the north African nation's cause.

    The flamboyant French coach signed a new deal on Tuesday as reward for engineering qualification as Morocco came from behind to usurp Ivory Coast, with whom Renard won the 2015 Nations Cup.

    Morocco took advantage of a stumbling campaign by the Ivorians and, needing a point in their last game in Abidjan, won 2-0 away to Ivory Coast, who would have qualified themselves with a victory, to top Africa's Group C by four points.

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  • WC 2018: Gearing Up for 2018 World Cup? Russia Introduces Mandatory ID for Football Fans

    By Morocco World News

    Rabat – Football fans from around the world will fly to Russia to cheer for their national teams during the 2018 World Cup. However, according to a statement by Russia’s Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications, foreign and Russian spectators alike must first obtain a specific “FAN ID” in order to access the 2018 FIFA World Cup stadia.

    According to the statement, the FAN ID will be a “mandatory document” for spectators to attend the matches..

    This could be good news for Moroccans willing to travel to Russia in 2018 to cheer on their Moroccan football team. Foreign citizens can use their FAN IDs to enter the federation without needing a visa. The IDs, containing the user’s personal information and photo, will be “issued free of charge and [are] valid for all the 2018 FIFA World Cup matches,” added the ministry.

    “Spectators can fill an application for FAN ID and get one after purchasing tickets to attend the event,” said Andrei Romankov, Deputy Director of the Department for the Implementation of Strategic Projects in the Russian Ministry of Communications and Mass Media.

    Moroccan fans who are excited to attend the tournament to support the Atlas Lions will have to apply for the ID at fan-id.ru.

    The statement added, “applicants can choose to have their FAN IDs delivered by mail or to get them directly from one of the VFS Global Visa Application Centers or one of the foreign offices of the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States Affairs, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Humanitarian Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo).”

    The Russian ministry added that a list of relevant locations will also be available via the official website.

    Morocco qualified for the tournament on November 11 after its 2-0 win over Cote d’Ivoire.

    This operation is being implemented by Russia’s Ministry of Communications and Mass Media, who debuted the FAN ID earlier this year during the FIFA Confederations Cup 2017.

    “Approximately 480,000 FAN IDs were ordered to attend the matches. 10% of the FAN IDs were ordered by foreign citizens from over 100 countries of the world. Most fans attended the FIFA Confederations Cup 2017 were from Chile, Mexico, Ukraine, Germany, Uzbekistan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, the USA, China, Nigeria, England, Armenia and Tadzhikistan,” said the ministry.

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  • WC 2026: Qatar Supports Morocco’s Bid to Host 2026 World Cup

    By Morocco World News

    Rabat – Hassan Al Thawadi, the secretary general of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC) of Qatar, has expressed his country’s full support to Morocco’s bid to host the 2026 FIFA World CUP.

    The announcement was made during a press conference held on Monday, reported international sports outlet Goal.

    The Qatari official said that “[Qatar] will support Morocco’s bid and will extend any support if needed.” He added that Morocco “has a strong competitor in USA, Canada and Mexico,” adding that “[Qatar] believes that Morocco has the capacity to host the major event, as they have made a bid earlier, too.”

    Qatar defeated the USA in 2010 to clinch the hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup.

    Al Thawadi added that “the manner in which the decision is taken has now changed,” explaining that “now it is the general assembly [FIFA congress] which decides.”

    “The success of the Moroccan bid will further extend the transformative power within the Arab region. It will have a stabilizing effect on the region. Together with 2022, this will be the biggest moment in Arab world’s history,” he added.”

    Morocco’s candidacy to host the tournament was submitted on August 11 by the Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF). The African nation will compete against the united bid of USA, Mexico and Canada in order to clinch the right to host the tournament.

    Morocco has already the backing of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) which has strongly endorsed the country’s candidacy immediately after its submission.

    In August, CAF president Ahmad Ahmad called on African football federations to show a clear support for Morocco’s bid. Morocco sees itself as a representative of Africa, stating the continent has a right to once again organize the competition.

    Morocco’s previous bids to host the 1994, 1998, 2006, and 2010 World Cups were unsuccessful.

    In its last attempt, Morocco was close to winning before losing a tight race against South Africa.

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