• NT: Genoa confirms Adel Taarabt call up for the clash against Ivory Coast

  • CHAN 2018: Morocco CHAN team to play 2 friendlies with Mauritania and Gambia

    (TheAtlasLions.com) Morocco CHAN team to play 2 friendlies with Mauritania and Gambia in Marrakech on Nov 10th and Nov 13th respectively


  • Press review: Will Morocco's football revival continue against Ivory Coast?

    (ESPNFC) It's shaping up to be a great week for Moroccan football, but only if they avoid defeat to the Ivory Coast on Saturday.

    Since taking over the Moroccan national side in February 2016 following a successful stint as Ivory Coast boss, Herve Renard has overseen the side's return to prominence in the continental arena.

    That promise will be realised this weekend if they avoid defeat against Renard's former charges in Abidjan and secure a return to the World Cup for the first time since 1998.

    With Wydad Casablanca downing Al-Ahly 2-1 on aggregate in the CAF Champions League final on Saturday to become the first Moroccan side since Raja Casablanca in 1999 to win the continent's top club honour, the fruit of the nation's revival in recent years is already being seen.

    Couple that success with the domestic investment in the football infrastructure, the prominent role of national football president Fouzi Lekjaa within CAF, and the optimism surrounding a 2026 World Cup bid, and Morocco can begin to move on from two decades of underachievement.

    Excluding a runners-up finish in 2004, the Atlas Lions didn't escape the group stage at six Africa Cup of Nations tournaments between 2000 and 2017.

    The only exceptions were when they didn't qualify in 2010, and when they withdrew as hosts in 2015 amidst concerns about the Ebola crisis, and were duly banned from participating in the reorganised tournament.

    Renard ended that miserable streak in 2017 as they escaped from the 'Group of Death' ahead of Ivory Coast and Togo, before falling to eventual runners-up Egypt in the quarter finals when Kahraba netted an 88th-minute winner.

    Now Renard is on the cusp of following that 'success' up with a maiden World Cup qualification this decade, with the North Africans failing to reach any of the last four tournaments.

    Beyond it being a return to form for the nation that qualified for three of four tournaments between 1986 and 1998 - reaching the Round of 16 in the first of that quartet - it would also represent a significant personal achievement for Renard.

    The Frenchman has struggled to build a reputation for himself beyond the African context, having overseen Sochaux's relegation in 2014 before having the rug pulled out from underneath him at LOSC Lille in November 2015, after just 13 matches at the helm.

    While he guided Zambia to an unlikely Nations Cup success in 2012, they failed to reach the 2014 World Cup after finishing their group campaign second behind Ghana.

    Renard's approach with this Moroccan side has been similar to his strategy with the Chipolopolo and with his 2015 AFCON-winning Elephants team, as he's found a key core of players upon whom he can rely, and then experimented with the problem areas of the side until he found a pragmatic solution that eradicated the side's failings.

    Typically, he constructs well-organised sides with a defensive schema that allows the team's more creative, attacking players to express themselves.

    During the early stages of Renard's tenure with Morocco - and notably at the Nations Cup - his Lions team boasted defensive resiliency in abundance, but lacked a cutting edge going forward.

    Faycal Fajr's deliveries - both from open play and set pieces - emerged as one of few genuinely effective attacking tools, as they struggled to break down the Democratic Republic of Congo and Egypt, and only narrowly bested the Ivorians.

    Since that tournament, however, Morocco's offensive options have been refined and supplemented, and it's testament to the quality of their resources that Achraf Bencharki is the only Wydad player to have made the squad for the showdown with the Elephants.

    A glance at Renard's squad provides reason for optimism in abundance, with the French coach able to call upon a clutch of talented offensive options to complement his spine of Karim El-Ahmadi, Mbark Boussoufa, Medhi Benatia and Romain Saiss.

    Hakim Ziyech - arguably the outstanding individual in the Eredivisie today - is one of Africa's emerging midfield talents, and delivered a sublime showing in the 6-0 evisceration of Mali in September after bouncing back from his Nations Cup snub.

    Younes Belhanda has impressed in Turkey with Galatasaray since signing in the summer, and flexed his creative muscles with a pair of assists in the 5-1 victory over Genclerbirligi on Friday, while Sofiane Boufal, too often anonymous since moving to Southampton, netted a wondergoal earlier this month as he reaffirmed his enduring qualities.

    In attack, Khalid Boutaib - merely a tertiary option at the AFCON - has been in exceptional form since joining Yeni Malatyaspor from Strasbourg ahead of the season, and currently has six goals in 10 Super Lig outings, not to mention a recent hat-trick against Gabon in a World Cup qualifier.

    Should Morocco see off the Elephants to reach Russia, expect Renard to introduce - or re-introduce - several of the players who shone during the CAF Champions League campaign, with Mohamed Ounajem, Walid El Karti and Walid Azaro among the tournament's star performers.

    Finally, one intriguing prospect for the Atlas Lions might be Adel Taarabt, who's enjoying a resurgence at Genoa that reflects the national side's return to prominence.

    The playmaker, ridiculed as a clown and revered as a genius in (almost) equal measure, has enjoyed a remarkable career that's flitted between fantasy and farce, but a series of fine contributions on loan in Serie A this season won't have gone unnoticed by Renard.

    Give Renard time, and he knows how to construct rugged, dogged sides who are tricky to beat. That was never in doubt with Morocco, but they're now beginning to demonstrate that they have the kind of talent around the world that can not only lift them out of the doldrums, but also make them a significant threat in Russia.

    They just have to get there first...


  • Press review: Wydad Casablanca's CAF Champions League win a boost for Moroccan football

    (ESPN.co.uk) Wydad Casablanca's deserved victory in this year's CAF Champions League has ended a long wait for club and country, and possibly points to resurgence in Moroccan football that could see them become a dominant force on the continent again.

    Wydad defeated Egyptian giants Al Ahly 2-1 on aggregate in the final, ensuring the Cairo club didn't extend their record of eight Champions League victories.

    For Wydad it is a first title in Africa's elite club competition in 25 years, while they are the first Moroccan side to lift the title this century, with previous winners Raja Casablanca hoisting the trophy in 1999.

    For a country with a proud record in the competition it has been a long, agonising wait, with a number of near misses in the recent past.

    Wydad were themselves losing finalists in 2011 when they went down to Tunisian side Esperance, while Raja lost out to Zamalek in 2002.

    However, only Egypt (14) have now produced more wins in the Champions League competition, with Morocco's sixth victory leaving them joint second on the list with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    This success, coupled with Morocco's potential qualification for the World Cup for the first time since 1998 suggests the country's football is on the rise again after some years in the doldrums.

    Morocco, led by coach Herve Renard, need a draw in their final qualifier away to the Ivory Coast on Saturday to book their passage to Russia.

    Renard, who led the Ivorians to African Nations Cup glory in 2015, will know everything there is to know about his opponents, and will be quietly confident of getting the desired result with Morocco yet to concede a single goal after five qualification matches to date.

    Wydad's victory in this year's Champions League was a triumph for organisation and, like many in the past, relied heavily on home advantage.

    The club won just one of their seven matches on the road, at Cameroon club Coton Sport in the pool stages, and only netted three goals in that time.

    However, it was the complete opposite when at their Casablanca home, where they were imperious, winning all seven games with just a single goal conceded.

    They beat Ahly twice at home in the campaign and also knocked out defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns from South Africa, as well as securing a handsome 3-1 victory over Algerian side USM Alger.

    Their campaign almost faltered at the first hurdle when they needed penalties to beat Gabon side CF Mounana in the first round, but grew in strength as the tournament progressed.

    It will ensure a rich pay-day for the side, who win a record $2.5 million for lifting the trophy and are guaranteed at least another $1 million for their participation in the FIFA Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates from Dec. 6-16.

    They will face Mexican side Pachuca in the quarter finals on Dec. 9, with the winners to advance to meet the Copa Libertadores champions from South America - either Brazilian side Gremio or Lanus from Argentina.

  • Women U20: Nigeria hold Morocco 1-1

    Nigeria were today held to a 1-1 draw by home team Morocco in an U20 Women’s World Cup qualifier played in Sale.

    The return match in Nigeria will be played next weekend.

    The overall winners of this match-up will take on the winners of the clash between South Africa and Burundi for a place at the World Cup in France next year.


  • FIFA CWC 2017: Wydad crowned African champions

    (FIFA.com) Moroccan side crowned African club continental champions for first time since 1992

    Will represent Africa at FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017

    Moroccan side Wydad Casablanca will represent Africa at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017 after defeating Egyptian giants Al Ahly 2-1 on aggregate in the CAF Champions League final.

    Walid El Karti scored the winning goal in the second leg with a header in the 69th minute from a precise cross delivered by Acraf Bencharki.

    As expected, Al Ahly started the match on the front foot as they were chasing the tie following the 1-1 draw in the first leg in Alexandria. Going into the second leg in Casablanca, Wydad knew a goalless draw would be enough to see them through.

    The Moroccan club maintained a solid defensive shape knowing they carried enough threat up top to potentially punish Al Ahly on the counter attack. Wydad almost found the breakthrough in the 30th minute when Abdeladim Khadrouf's attempted shot inside the penalty area hit the Al Ahly crossbar after taking a deflection.

    Al Ahly's best chance in the first half came in the 33rd minute when Momen Zakaria went one-on-one with Zouahir Laaroubi, but the goalkeeper made the crucial save.

    Wydad head coach Lhoussaine Ammouta changed his tactics in the second half as his side maintained possession in their attacking half to minimise Al Ahly's chances. Eventually the tactics paid off as El Karti latched on to the end of Bencharki's cross to put the result beyond doubt.

    Wydad lift the CAF Champions League trophy for the second time in their history. They won the competition for the first time in 1992.

    They will face Pachuca of Mexico in the quarter-finals of the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017 on 9 December.

  • Press review: Scotland could be set for glamour friendly against Lionel Messi and Argentina next year in Morocco

    SCOTLAND could be lined to play a glamour friendly against Lionel Messi and Argentina next year – in Morocco.

    Caretaker boss Malky Mackay confirmed this week that advanced talks were ongoing with the Moroccan FA about a game against the hosts in March.

    But Morocco want to organise a series of games as part of their bid to host the 2026 World Cup and want to use the March friendlies to showcase their facilities.

    They are close to reaching an agreement to play Scotland and Argentina in their brand new Stade Adrar in Agadir and have explored the possibility of expanding it into a mini-tournament between the three nations.

    And Fouzi Lekjaa, president of the Royal Moroccan Football Federation, is convinced he can make it happen.

    He stated: “It is 100 per cent that we will play Argentina. They have already confirmed Lionel Messi will be there.

    “There will be other matches organised too then and we want to prove we have the facilities to host big games.”

    An SFA delegation led by Mackay and chief executive Stewart Regan visited Agadir in September, where meetings were held with the SFA, Moroccan FA and Thomas Reilly, the British Ambassador to Morocco.

    And Mackay this week insisted he wants Scotland to face other nations outside of Europe.

    He said: “We don’t have endless cash to fly to South America to play Urugay, which I would love to do.

    “But we can be innovative and possibly have Uruguay flown to Morocco.”

    It might not be Uruguay, but a match up with Messi in what would be Scotland’s first ever game in African soil would sure to be an exciting friendly.

    The last time Scotland face Argentina, it finished in a 1-0 win for the South Americans in Diego Maradona’s first match in charge of what turned out to be a short-lived reign.

    But Messi was missing for the Hampden friendly in 2008 with Barcelona refusing to release their superstar for the game.


  • CAF CL: Wydad Casablanca claim Champions League crown

    (Africanfootball.com) Morocco’s Wydad Casablanca beat Egyptian giants Al Ahly 1-0 at the Stade Mohamed V Stadium on Saturday night to claim the 2017 CAF Champions League title.

    Wydad won the final 2-1 on aggregate, with the first leg in Alexandria last weekend ending in a 1-1 draw. This match in Casablanca was decided by a goal from Walid El Karti midway through the second half, with the hosts side claiming just their second African crown and a first since 1992.

    Al Ahly looked the more dangerous side in the opening 20 minutes and had a good chance fairly early on through Abdallah El-Said, who cut inside from the right and tested Zouhair Laaroubi with an awkward shot.

    Wydad struggled to put attacking moves together, but they almost claimed the lead against the run of play in the 30th minute, with forward Abdeladim Khadrouf seeing his shot deflect off a defender and crash into the crossbar.

    Ahly had a great chance of their own a couple of minutes later when they sprang away on a counter attack which handed Moemen Zakareya a one-on-one opportuity, but he was denied by a fine save from Laaroubi.

    The Egyptian side continued to look strong in the second stanza, with Wydad happy to sit back and look to hit on the counter attack. The risky approach from the hosts paid dividends just past the midway point of the half.

    Achraf Bencharki, who scored the away goal in the first leg, turned provider this time around as his deflected cross from the right fell perfectly for Walid El Karti, who powered home a header to put his side 1-0 up on the night and 2-1 on aggregate.

    Wydad were in full control of the game from that moment onward, and nearly doubled their advantage on the night when the excellent Bencharki teed up Khadrouf, but he was denied by a fine save.

    Wydad Casablanca (0) 1 (El Karti 69’) - Wydad won 2-1 on aggregate

    Al Ahly 0

    Wydad: Zouhair Laaroubi, Youssef Rabeh, Amine Atouchi, Abdellatif Noussir, Salaheddine Saidi, Walid El Karti, Brahim Nakach, Badr Gaddarine, Achraf Bencharki, Ismail El Haddad (Mouhamed Ouattara 90+3’), Abdeladim Khadrouf (Zakaria El Hachimi 86’)

    Ahly: Sherif Ekramy, Mohamed Hani, Saad Samir, Rami Rabia, Hussein El-Sayed (Walid Soliman 77’), Amr El-Sulaya, Ahmed Fathi (Emad Moteab 72’), Moemen Zakareya, Abdallah El-Said, Junior Ajayi, Walid Azaro (Ahmed Hamoudi 61’)

  • CAF CL: Wydad Casablanca African Champion after beating Al-Ahly 1-0 (agg 2-1)

    (TheAtlasLions.com) Wydad Casablanca are African Champions after beating Egyptian Al-Ahly 1-0 (agg 2-1) on Saturday, goal of Walid El Karti in the 69 min.

    See goal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAXybWRrM4k

  • CAF CL: Wydad say 'suicidal' to shut up shop against Ahly

    Wydad Casablanca coach Hussein Amotta said it would be "suicidal" to try and defend the 1-1 CAF Champions League final first-leg draw when they meet Al Ahly again Saturday.

    A goalless second leg at the Stade Mohammed V would give the Moroccans victory over the Egyptians on the away-goal rule in the premier African club competition title decider.

    But Amotta believes "parking the bus" is not an option as Wydad seek to win the competition for the second time after their 1992 triumph over Al Hilal of Sudan.

    "Ahly boast one of the best attacks in Africa so it would be suicidal to sit back and defend against them, hoping to win on away goals," the 48-year-old former midfielder said.

    "We must attack because there are flaws in the Ahly defence, while not giving our opponents space to catch us on the counter.

    "Wydad achieved a great result in Egypt by holding Ahly, one of the most experienced clubs in the continent.

    "But this final is far from decided. I want my players to relax, attack when it is opportune and try very hard to score the first goal," said Amotta.

    Wydad, making their third appearance in the final having lost to Esperance of Tunisia six seasons ago, boast a perfect Champions League home record this year of six victories.

    Among their victims were Ahly in the group stage with goals from now-departed Congo Brazzaville striker Fabrice Ondama and midfielder Walid El Karty delivering a 2-0 win.

    They also eliminated defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa on penalties after a Salaheddine Saidi goal won the second leg in Rabat.

    The Wydad defence and goalkeeper Zouheir Laaroubi have been outstanding at home in Africa, going 517 minutes without conceding before USM Alger of Algeria netted in the semi-finals.

    At the other end of the pitch, striker Achraf Bencharki has regained form at the right time, scoring three goals in his last two outings.

    His brace saw off USM in a 3-1 semi-final second-leg triumph and he levelled via a glancing header in the final after Ahly had snatched a third-minute lead via Moamen Zakaria.

    Bencharki had scored only twice in 11 earlier Champions League matches this season for a club with two CAF titles to boast of having won the 2002 African Cup Winners Cup.

    Ahly may be on the back foot having squandered numerous chances in Alexandria with Morocco-born Walid Azaro the chief culprit after scoring a semi-finals hat-trick.

    They were also deprived of a blatant penalty during the second half when Azaro was floored in full sight of the generally unimpressive Ethiopian referee.

    Record eight-time champions Ahly have a mixed away record in Africa this season, winning twice, drawing twice and losing twice.

    The "Cairo Red Devils" will be encouraged, though, by a win and a draw from three previous visits to Wydad in the competition.

    Coach Hossam El Badry remains hopeful of a second title under his watch, having guided the club to 2012 glory in a previous spell at the helm.

    "We did not exploit our chances in the first leg and were denied an obvious penalty," said the 57-year-old former Ahly defender.

    "Our overall performance was impressive and I believe in the abilities of my players. We will fight to achieve victory until the final whistle sounds."

    The champions will pocket a record $2.5 million (about 2.1 million euros) and secure a place at the FIFA Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates during December.



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