• WC 2026: Uganda to support Morocco in bid for 2026 FIFA World Cup

    KAMPALA, Nov. 8 (Xinhua) -- Uganda will support Morocco to bid the 2026 Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) World Cup.

    Moses Magogo, head of Uganda's football governing body told Xinhua in an interview on Wednesday that after South Africa successfully hosted the World Cup in 2010 for the first time in Africa, Morocco also has what it takes to host the world's biggest football showpiece.

    "Morocco has the facilities, good road network, good stadiums, hotels and communication which are all good to host the World Cup. We shall vote for Morocco during the 2020 FIFA Assembly," added Magogo.

    Morocco will contest against a joint US-Mexico-Canada bid to host the first ever World Cup that will have 48 nations.

    FIFA on Tuesday released the bidding guide for the 2026 World Cup.

    The bidding process will have the infrastructure and commercial criteria in the technical evaluation report which will being assessed based on infrastructure (70 percent) and commercial elements (30 percent).

    The 2026 bid will be Morocco's fifth attempt to try and convince the international football community that another African nation is ready to host the showpiece.

    Morocco were beaten by France for the 1998 hosting rights and by South Africa to a 2010 tournament.

  • WC 2018 Qualifiers: Final three African soccer World Cup slots to be settled

    (Reuters) - Senegal and Tunisia are on the brink of qualification for next year’s World Cup finals but the tussle between the Ivory Coast and Morocco is set for a dramatic finale in Abidjan at the weekend.

    Egypt and Nigeria have already claimed two of the five African slots for the tournament in Russia and the final set of qualifiers being played over the next week will determine the other three.

    Group C will also be settled on Saturday where Morocco lead the standings by a single point from the Ivorians, who have been to the last three World Cups but have been struggling in recent times without the influence of Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure.

    Anything other than a win for the Ivorians will give Morocco their first appearance at a World Cup in 20 years.

    “It’s like a cup final we have to win,” said Ivory Coast coach Marc Wilmots at a news conference on Wednesday.

  • NT: Adel Taarabt will not join the National team for the moment

    (TheAtlasLions.com) Adel Taarabt will not join the National Team for their clash with Cote d'Iviore, he will stay with Genoa.

    Herve Renard explained in an interview published today on the Gazzetta dello Sport why Taarabt will not join the Atlas Lions for the moment: "When you are coach the most important thing is the group, and all the players who came here deserve to stay in team and come to Côte d'Ivoire.

    Talent Taarabt should be quiet of ours, he's a great player, I talked to him a month ago and complimented him for his brilliant start of the season with Genoa. If someone gets hurt I will call him up, otherwise I'll do it in the future : the national doors for him are open , he is not far from the group".


  • NT: Ivory Coast, Morocco set for epic battle

    (SuperSport.com) Africa’s 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign will come to end within the next week and arguably the biggest match sees Ivory Coast host Morocco at the Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny in Abidjan on Saturday evening, kick-off at 7.30pm CAT.

    The clash will decide which of these two teams finishes top of Group C and secures qualification for the 2018 finals in Russia.

    The odds are stacked in favour of Morocco, who hold a one-point lead at the top of the table and know that they need only avoid defeat in Abidjan to secure a fifth World Cup qualification, and their first since 1998.

    Ivory Coast, meanwhile, must win the match to leapfrog to the top of the standings. Should they do so, it would see them secure a ticket to their fourth successive World Cup.

    The match is given extra emotive value by the status of the teams’ coaches. Morocco’s Herve Renard will be facing the team he took to Africa Cup of Nations glory as recently as 2015, while Ivory Coast’s Marc Wilmots may very well see this game as one in which his job is one the line.

    The Belgian has earned little affection from Elephants fans since taking charge earlier this year, yet if he can secure a place in Russia 2018 it would certainly raise his stock in the West African country and secure his position for the forseeable future.

    Wilmots has called for unity from Ivorian fans ahead of the do-or-die clash, saying, “We will have a final in Abidjan, we must win against Morocco.”

    Renard has been more nuanced in his pre-match talk, but has taken confidence from beating Ivory Coast at the Afcon earlier this year, as well as holding the Elephants to a goalless draw in the teams’ first Group C meeting in Marrakesh a year ago.

    “We’re going to play our final game against Ivory Coast, and this game is going to be difficult,” the French tactician told beIN Sport

    “We defeated Ivory Coast during the Africa Cup of Nations. We’ll have to do the same again.”

    Renard added, “I think that we’ve made a lot of progress. But we have to be very efficient during those 90 minutes to seek this qualification that a whole nation is waiting for.”

    The teams have met in 18 previous matches, according to Fifa statistics, with Ivory Coast claiming six wins compared to five for Morocco. The Atlas Lions beat the Elephants 1-0 when the pair met in the group stage of this year’s Afcon.

    The other Group C match will see Gabon host Mali in Franceville on Saturday afternoon.

  • NT: Côte d’Ivoire faces all-or-nothing World Cup qualifier against Morocco

    By RFI

    Côte d’Ivoire manager Marc Wilmots said Tuesday the team was unfazed by pressure or minor injuries ahead of its all-or-nothing World Cup qualifying match against Morocco in Abidjan on Saturday.

    Speaking at a press conference, Wilmots called on Ivorians to come to the stadium for the match.

    “Where I’m from, we call that the 12th player,” the Belgian told reporters. “There’s a match, there’s a final to win. That is the objective.”

    The equation for the match is simple: a win against Morocco means the team qualifies for the 2018 World Cup in Russia and a loss means they watch the tournament from home.

    Calm before match

    “The pressure is on both teams, because both can qualify”, Wilmots said, adding he was confident Côte d’Ivoire would hold it together on Saturday.

    “I am calm, because I know what must be done and the players do, too,” he said, remarking that the team had “a number of options” for its strategy on the field.

    “[Winger] Wilfried Zaha is back, so we have a full offensive line-up that we can now deploy for the first time,” Wilmots said. “With that in mind, we have to find the balance and the strategy to upset the Moroccans. That’s what we’ll try to do.

    “We’ve gathered our players for medical check-ups,” he continued in regards to a few lingering concerns. “A few have minor injuries and are receiving the attention they need, so we will know what we can do and where to avoid mistakes.”

    As for the visiting team, the manager acknowledged Morocco were very experienced and motivated, while pointing out their own weak points.

    “They obviously have players of strong technical skill and a solid midfield to back them up,” he said. “But they’ve also got an older team playing its last hand.”

  • U21: Morocco to play double friendlies with France

    (TheAtlasLions.com) Morocco U21 will play a double friendlies with France U21 in El Jadida on Nov. 8th and Nov 11th respectively.

  • NT: Boutaib, the man of the moment

    (FIFA.com) After four games in the African qualifying competition, Morocco’s chances of making it to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ looked quite remote. The North Africans were a point behind Group C leaders Côte d'Ivoire and just a point ahead of Gabon, whom they were to face in their fifth match. With their final qualifier in Abidjan against the group leaders, pressure was building up and Moroccan football fans were facing yet another World Cup absence.

    They received a welcome boost one day ahead of their fifth Group C game when the Elephants were held to a goalless draw in Bamako by Mali. That inched open the door, but it was Khalid Boutaib who kicked it wide open as his hat-trick against Gabon not only knocked out the Panthers, it also kept Morocco’s chances very much alive. They can now afford to draw in Abidjan and still qualify for Russia 2018.

    “We absolutely wanted to beat Gabon at home to tackle the last match in Abidjan with a chance to qualify," Boutaib told FIFA.com. "There was a lot at stake because the Gabonese had to win if they wanted their chances to stay alive. We took advantage of the Mali draw and now we are in a good position.

    "To score three goals, in a game as important as the one against Gabon and in the Casablanca stadium, where there is a great atmosphere, was a great moment. I felt a lot of joy and pride. I had already scored once in the 6-0 victory against Mali at the end of August. But these three goals allowed us to take three points and lead the group.”

    A late starter

    Born in France to parents of Moroccan descent, the 30-year-old played his first game in the French second division for Gazelec Ajaccio in the 2014/5 season, having previously played for lower league clubs. He helped the side to promotion at the end of that campaign and was a regular as the club struggled in the top flight. He then moved on to Strasbourg, where he scored 20 goals in Ligue 2 last season, prompting Turkish Super Lig side Yeni Malatyaspor to snap him up.

    Boutaib is a relatively late starter on the international stage, having only made his Morocco debut in 2016, but is now hoping to lead the line on the biggest stage of all: the World Cup.

    “We have our destiny in our hands," Boutaib said. "We do not need to worry about the result of the match between Mali and Gabon. It is of course a good thing, to be in good position just before a decisive match like this. But we know that it will be very difficult.

    “Playing away from home, facing one of the best African teams, is not easy. There will be most of the stadium against us, even though we will have fans there to support us. We must expect a match with a lot of commitment, because the stakes are huge.”

    He is aware of the expectations surrounding the qualifying campaign.

    “Moroccans love football, and they really want us to make it to Russia," Boutaib continued. "If we qualify, there will be a lot of joy. Before I became an international, even I was eager for the team to make it to the finals. So I can understand the impatience of the fans.”

    Boutaib believes that having a one-point lead is not the only advantage they have. “Our coach Herve Renard was African champion with Côte d’Ivoire two years ago," Boutaib said. "He knows some of the players. After the match against Gabon, he did not want too much talk about the Ivorians.

    "He first asked us to work well in our clubs. We will talk about the opponents when we meet up. I trust the coach to prepare us well. He knows Africa very well and is still highly regarded in Côte d'Ivoire.”

    For Boutaib, the chance of appearing on football’s greatest stage would be something special. “It would be fabulous to qualify for the World Cup. This is the dream of every professional player.

    "I have only played internationally for two years. I have already played at the Nations Cup and now I hope I can participate at the World Cup.”

  • CIV vs MOR : Gervinho, Jonathan Kodjia and Joris Gnagnon doubtfuls!

    (TheAtlasLions.com) Ivory Coast players Gervinho, Jonathan Kodjia and Joris Gnagnon doubtfuls for the clash against Morocco on Saturday.

    See source: https://www.lequipe.fr/Football/Actualites/Cote-d-ivoire-gervinho-jonathan-kodjia-et-joris-gnagnon-incertains-contre-le-maroc/848852

  • 2018 World Cup: Ivorian Football Federation Gives Only 400 Seats For Moroccan Fans

    By Morocco World News

    Rabat – While the Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF) vowed to offer Moroccan fans more than 8,000 seats for the Morocco-Ivory Coast game, only 400 tickets have actually been made available to the Moroccan team’s supporters, reported African News Agency (APA).

    Only five days separate the Moroccan football team from the World Cup qualifier game against Ivory Coast, which will decide who is going to play in Russia’s 2018 World Cup, and approximately 29,000 entry tickets to Abidjan’s Houphouet-Boigny Stadium have been issued for the game.

    According to APA, 2,000 out of 29,000 tickets are reserved for officials, while 27,000 are designed for supporters. The sale of tickets was launched on Monday morning, Eric Kacou, Head of Communication Bureau of the Ivorian Football Federation (IFF), told APA.

    The Houphouet-Boigny Stadium has a 33,000 seating capacity. However, the Ivorian federation granted only 400 places to the Moroccan federation, which had requested over 8,000 seats for its fans in late October.

    Kacou justified the low number of Moroccan-designated tickets to the APA.

    “The IFF did more than the Moroccan federation, which in the first leg, gave us only 200 places. But, we have doubled the number,” said Kacou.

    Kacou was repeating a complaint made in October by the president of local football fan group Comité National de Soutien aux Élephants (CNSE), who stated that the Ivorian federation would “never accept” the FRMF’s ticket request.

    “We’re hearing here and there that Moroccans are going to invade Ivory Coast,” said President Parfait Kouassi. “We’d like to tell them that there aren’t enough seats in Félix Houphouët-Boigny Stadium. We won’t let them take our seats.”

    “During the first leg, the Moroccans gave us only 200 seats in a stadium with 60,000 seats capacity. In Abidjan, to pay them back what they did to us, Moroccan fans will only get 201 seats,” he said.

    The Atlas Lions are only one point away from booking a ticket to the World Cup for the first time in 20 years.

    On November 4, state-owned Royal Air Maroc (RAM) started selling flight tickets to Abidjan. The tickets will be sold at MAD 2,000 for a round trip flight. The Moroccan airline announced it would deploy additional flights in order to accommodate fans wishing to travel to Abidjan and cheer for their team.

  • Press review: Will Herve Renard end Marc Wilmots' troubled Ivorian reign this weekend?

    (ESPNFC.com) When Herve Renard left his post as Ivory Coast manager in May 2015, you couldn't have possibly imagined that he'd have played a fairly direct role in both of his successors losing their job.

    Yet that remarkable scenario could well become reality this weekend if the Elephants - now guided (and I use the term loosely) by Marc Wilmots - fail to beat Renard's new charges, Morocco, in Abidjan in their final World Cup qualifier.

    While Renard has overseen something of a renaissance with the Moroccan side since taking the helm in February 2016, and now has them on the brink of their first World Cup appearance since 1998, Wilmots has wholly failed to help the Elephants move on from their miserable Africa Cup of Nations campaign.

    Heading into the tournament as reigning champions under Michel Dussuyer, the West Africans were admittedly pooled in the 'Group of Death', but failed to really get their campaign off the ground and were sent packing after taking just two points from their three group matches.

    It was one of the worst title defences in the tournament's history, and their experience was made all the bitterer by the fact that it was Renard - the man who had guided them to the championship two years beforehand - who dealt the final blow when his Moroccan side won 1-0 in Oyem in the decisive final group match.

    On that day, the difference in approach, energy and dynamism between Renard - a coach famed for his charisma and showmanship - and his successor, the dour Dussuyer, was marked.

    While Renard picked his moments carefully, his whole touchline presence a well measured performance that veered from brooding disdain to theatrical gesticulation, Dussuyer appeared downtrodden and impotent.

    Watching Renard in action, you can understand why Salomon Kalou likened his whole approach to management to Jose Mourinho while speaking to ESPN earlier this year.

    When Rachid Alioui fired the Atlas Lions into a 64th-minute lead with an impudent finish, it was 13 minutes before he made a substitution - even though one was so blatantly required - and even when his team appeared to lose their way, Dussuyer would remain in his dug out, shoulders hunched.

    He was a man out of energy, out of ideas and...in the immediate aftermath of the tournament...out of a job.

    The Ivorian Federation arguably have a worse track record than most when it comes to appointing head coaches, with Renard the only real recent exception.

    Francois Zahoui may have got a bad rep, but were Sven-Goran Eriksson in 2010 and Sabri Lamouchi in 2012 really the men to have overseen the immense talent, promise and ego of the Golden Generation?

    Similarly, it didn't take a rocket scientist to work out taking Guinea to the quarter finals of the 2015 Nations Cup perhaps wasn't enough evidence that Dussuyer could be the right man to help the Elephants integrate the likes of Wilfried Zaha, Jean Seri, Franck Kessie and Jonathan Kodjia into the dying embers of that celebrated Golden Generation.

    And neither was Wilmots.

    Like Sven and Sabri, he was a cosmopolitan, metropolitan coach with experience of the elite end of European competition, but having arguably failed to capitalise on the promise of one exceptional group of players - Belgium - had he done enough to commend himself as the man to drag the Elephants up from the ashes of their AFCON defence?

    While some may commend Wilmots for his pragmatism with the Belgian side, sometimes exquisite talents need to be allowed to express themselves and encouraged to take a more progressive approach to the game.

    He's done little since taking over the Ivorians to suggest that he can guide the Elephants back to the pinnacle of the continental game.

    So far, under his tenure, the senior side have played seven games, won two, drawn two and lost four. Notably, they've conceded 13 - including five in a friendly against the Netherlands - although they have kept clean sheets in three of their last four matches.

    Wilmots will have to find a way past a rugged, dogged Moroccan side without the influential trio of Eric Bailly (suspended), Jean Seri and Wilfried Bony (both injured), although he will be able to call on Max Gradel and Zaha.

    The latter, in particular, could prove to be a key figure - particularly considering that both Gervinho and Jonathan Kodjia are only finding their way back to fitness.

    Zaha's scored two in his last four since returning to the fray with Crystal Palace, and has demonstrated at club level that when his team are struggling and need inspiration, he may just be the man to provide it.

    He's yet to demonstrate his best form since switching nationality after having already made his international bow with England, but may just be the man to find a way through Morocco's disciplined and resilient backline.

    The trump card for Wilmots may also be Seydou Doumbia of Sporting Lisbon.

    Ignored by Dussuyer, the forward is one of the few positives to take from the Belgian coach's tenure to date - netting four in his last three - and having been sorely missed in the stalemate with Mali, he's due to return for the showdown with the Atlas Lions.

    Certainly, Wilmots needs to find inspiration from somewhere in order to get the required victory over Morocco and ensure the Elephants reach their fourth consecutive World Cup.

    In the opposite dugout, Renard will need no further incentive than the prospect of taking Morocco back to the promised land for the first time in two decades and chalking off another milestone in his storied career. However, don't be surprised if he also takes the scalp of another of his successors as well.


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