• 2026 World Cup bid: Ahmad backs Morocco, Montagliani backs Gulati

    October 30 – The president of the African Football Confederation Ahmad Ahmad has queried CONCACAF’s unity for the region’s 2026 World Cup bid. CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani downplayed the United States’ elimination from the 2018 World Cup as a destabilising factor for his confederation’s bid. Last August Morocco joined the race to land the first 48-team tournament.

    Ahmad said that it is his obligation as the CAF president to back his continent’s bid, but rather than discussing Africa’s unity or potential division over the Moroccan bid, Ahmad questioned if CONCACAF will be united behind its bid, which is largely perceived as an American venture, with Mexico and Canada as sidekicks in a two-pronged support cast.

    “It is a difficult question,” said Ahmad. ‘Will CONCACAF be united behind its bid? It depends on the presentation of the bids. There is also a sporting point: will the Europeans prioritise football’s interest? These are all arguments that come into play in people’s choices.”

    South Africa trumped Morocco’s bid for the 2010 World Cup and ultimately staged a successful first World Cup on African soil. By 2026, 48 teams will participate in the quadrennial showpiece of the international game, requiring much larger facilities and operational capacity from potential hosts. That shouldn’t be an impediment for Morocco to stage the World Cup, according to the CAF president.

    “They bid for the 2010 World Cup, but they said that they’d build their infrastructure even if they didn’t get the World Cup,” explained Ahmad. “They have continued [to build].”

    Ahmad’s observations comes at an interesting time, with the United States, the key driver behind CONCACAF’s bid, in turmoil following their disastrous elimination from the 2018 World Cup. US Soccer president Sunil Gulati has come under severe pressure to resign after the debacle, but the FIFA Council member (and formerly on FIFA’s executive committee since 2013) is standing his ground. Montagliani, Ahmad’s counterpart in North and Central America, doesn’t see the American crisis spilling over to the bid.

    “It has nothing to do with the bid,” Montagliani told Insideworldfootball. “It’s a sign of how football has grown in the United States. Before Sunil [Gulati] was president, no one would have cared, but football has grown so much that it is a sign how strong people feel about the World Cup. Our bid is our bid. The World Cup is in 2026. That is a long time away.”

    “Sunil is the chairman of the bid,” said the CONCACAF president. “That is not going to change.”

    On the eve of the 2018 World Cup FIFA will decide who gets to hosts the 2026 edition of the tournament. The CONCACAF bid is considered the favourite to land the hosting rights, with Morocco an outsider.

    “Morocco is a footballing nation and it’s going to be a strong bid,” said Montagliani diplomatically. “Competition is always good, it brings out the best of people. We are confident of our bid and we will keep working hard, hitting all the milestones we need to hit.”

    http://www.insideworldfootball.com/2017/10/30/2026-world-cup-bid-ahmad-backs-morocco-montagliani-backs-gulati/

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  • NT: Morocco and Ivory Coast Fans Battle for Seats at Upcoming World Cup Qualifier

    (Morocco World News) Rabat – As the decisive football match between Morocco and Ivory Coast draws near, fans of the Atlas Lions are afraid they will not be able to travel to Abidjan next November in as large numbers as they planned.

    Morocco and Ivory Coast will have to fight for tickets to the 2018 World Cup when they clash on November 11.

    Moroccan sports officials had been hoping that between 3,000 and 5,000 local fans would fly to Abidjan to support the national team in its quest for a qualification to the World Cup for the first time in 20 years.

    The Atlas Lions are at the top of Group C with 9 points, chased by the Elephants with 8 points. While a draw guarantees qualification for the Moroccans to the international tournament, the home team will have to win to book a ticket to the summer championship in Russia.

    Tension is mounting high already as both sides are campaigning to mobilize local fans to help their players win the critical match.

    Earlier, Moroccan government officials announced they would help fans travel to Abidjan, with the assistance of the state-run airline Royal Air Maroc, by allocating reduced prices round-trip tickets to Abidjan as well as free access to the Félix Houphouët-Boigny stadium.

    But now, the head of an Ivory Coast fans group has promised that things will not be quite as the Moroccans planned.

    “We’re hearing here and there that Moroccan are going to invade Ivory Coast,” said Parfait Kouassi, the head of Comité National de Soutien aux Éléphants (CNSE).

    “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,” he said.

    Kouassi taunted the Moroccans by stating that they will not get beyond what they granted the Elephants fans during the first game between the two means in Marrakech in November 2016.

    “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 with sarcasm.

    His comments are yet another indication that the upcoming game will not be a walk in the park for the Moroccan team.

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  • FIFA: FIFA Considers Allowing Players Switch Senior National Teams

    (Morocco World News) Rabat – Countries like Morocco will certainly be pleased if the international governing football body FIFA implements the changes some of its members request regarding players with more than one nationality.

    As BBC Sport reported, FIFA is considering changing nationality rules to allow players, who played for a senior national team, switch to another.

    The request was made by Cape Verde and according to the British media outlet the world football organization is studying the proposal.

    Current regulations prohibits players who represented one country in an official game at the senior level from changing their teams.

    “There are nationality issues that pop up all over the world – in Africa, and there are issues in Asia and Concacaf “, said Victor Montagliani, the head of FIFA’s stakeholders committe.

    “So it’s a good time to have a look at this and see if there are solutions without hurting the integrity of the game “, he added.

    Players wishing to represent a team other than that they played for at a certain period of their junior career, can only do so before moving to the senior level or they are allowed to play one friendly game with a senior team before they can make up their minds.

    In recent years, several players who have represented the Moroccan national team previously played at the junior level for European countries such as France, Belgium, Holland and Italy.

    Players like Younes Belhenda, Nordin Amrabat, Amine Harit and others chose to represent Morocco at the senior level after they were part of the French and Dutch junior national football teams.

    Moroccan-Belgian winger Nacer Chadli played one friendly with Morocco against Ireland in 2010 before switching to Belgium.

    Other players such the Spanish Moroccan Munir El Hadadi and the Dutch Moroccan Anwar El Ghazi chose their European countries over Morocco but failed to secure a place among the line ups of the Spanish and Dutch teams.

    Morocco is hoping that FIFA rules will be relaxed to allow the Atals Lions attract players such as El Hadadi.

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  • CAF CL: Al Ahly, Wydad share spoils in first leg

    (FIFA.com) The first leg of the 2017 CAF Champions League final ended in a 1-1 draw between Al Ahly and Wydad Casablanca in Alexandria, Egypt.

    The match got off to a very lively start as hosts Al Ahly scored in the third minute through Momen Zakaria. Wydad answered with a goal of their own just over ten minutes later thanks to in-form Achraf Bencharki, and neither side were able to find the winning goal for the rest of the match.

    Al Ahly produced plenty of chances, especially in the second half, but the visitors were able to do enough on the evening to frustrate Hossam El-Badry's side.

    Zakaria scored in the third minute after he received a pass outside the penalty area before quickly unleashing a shot with his left foot into the back of the net.

    Wydad Casablanca then replied with a goal of their own when Mohamed Ounajem broke through on the right flank and delivered a superb ball for Bencharki to head in the equaliser.

    Wydad will now host Al Ahly in the second leg of the final on 4 November in Casablanca. The winner with the superior aggregate score will lift the CAF Champions League title and earn a place at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017.

    See goals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kp1CJhSdtcw

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  • Transfers: Stoke want Mimoun Mahi with Mark Hughes set to trigger Groningen striker’s £2m release clause

    (www.thesun.co.uk) MARK HUGHES is ready to pounce on Mimoun Mahi’s release clause at Groningen to boost Stoke’s season.

    Sparky is among the Premier League and Championship managers who want the Morocco forward in a £2million deal.

    Swansea have also been to Holland to watch the 23-year-old, who scored 17 goals in Eredivisie last season.

    Nottingham Forest are also in the hunt for Mahi and Bristol City are prepared to rekindle their interest after bidding for him in the summer.

    Mahi has one full season left on his Groningen contract and the Dutch side must let him talk to clubs if they receive a £2m bid.

    Stoke boss Hughes, with one Premier League win since mid-August, wants to inject more pace into his side when the January window opens.

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  • CAF CL: History Ahly favours against Wydad in epic final

    (CAFonline.com) It will be CAF Champions League final number 11 for Egyptian giants Al Ahly, yet their first ever against a Moroccan opponent.

    Record eight-time winners, Ahly have lost only two other finals, but conspicuously missing from their list of final opponents is a club from Morocco, and Saturday’s final will be the first involving teams from the two North African countries.

    With other 13 CAF tournament finals on their books, including four in the defunct CAF Cup Winners’ Cup (won all four), one in CAF Confederation Cup (won in 2014) and eight in CAF Super Cup (won six and lost two), Ahly has faced only one Moroccan side in the decisive match in a continental competition.

    The only meeting was the 2006 CAF Super Cup, when Ahly faced Forces Armées Royales (known as FAR Rabat) a few days after Egypt won the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations. A goalless draw after 120 minutes meant that the game was to be decided via penalties, which Ahly emerged victorious 4-2 thanks to heroic saves from goalkeeper Essam El Hadary.

    Besides the CAF Super Cup clash, Ahly has locked horns with Moroccan opponents in 16 games over eight different encounters. The first was in CAF Cup Winners’ Cup first round in 1984, when the Red Devils played against CLAS Casablanca (a club that was dissolved in 1995). A 3-1 win in Cairo was followed by another 2-0 win in Casablanca to see Ahly through, in a tournament they eventually won.

    Three successive encounters against Raja Athletic Club in the CAF Champions League group stages followed. First was in 1999, and saw Ahly losing 1-0 in Cairo before forcing a 1-1 draw in Casablanca. In 2002, Raja won at home 2-1, and held Ahly to a 3-3 draw in Cairo. Ahly finally defeated the ‘Green Eagles’ by a lone goal in 2005, before drawing 1-1 away in the year they won their fourth CAF Champions League trophy.

    Moghreb Tetouan were the opponents in 2015 CAF Champions League 1/8th round. Each side won 1-0 at home, and Tetouan shocked Ahly winning 4-3 on penalties.

    On the other hand, final opponent Wydad Athletic Club has crossed the path of Ahly three times at the group phase of the premier continental club championship. In 2011, they held Ahly to a couple of draws, 3-3 in Cairo and 1-1 in Casablanca. In 2016, a barren draw in Alexandria was followed by a rare Ahly win in Morocco by a lone goal.

    This season saw Ahly and Wydad again in the same group, with each side winning at home 2-0. Moamen Zakaria and Nigerian-import Junior Ajayi scored in each half to give Ahly victory in Alexandria last June, but for Congolese Fabrice Ondama and Walid Karti to emulate the feat for Wydad in Casablanca a fortnight later.

    Overall Ahly has battled Moroccan sides in 17 games. The Red Devils have the upper hand with six wins, seven draws and just four defeats. Yet the most important clash is yet to come.

    A stake is a cash reward of 2,500,000 US Dollars for the winner and the ticket to represent Africa at the FIFA Club World Cup in December in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

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  • NT: Oussama Tannane will be out for at least six weeks

    (TheAtlasLions.com) Las Palmas forward Oussama Tannane will be out for at least six weeks through injury confirmed his club yesterday.

    Tannane suffers from an injury on the right adductor.

    The Morocco international visited a clinic in La Coruña where he had an MRI scan that confirmed the injury he sustained last Sunday during the game between UD Las Palmas against Villarreal.

    Tannane will miss out the final World Cup 2018 qualifier against Cote d' Ivoire on Nov. 11th.

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  • NT: Adel Taarabt Hopes to Re-Join Moroccan Football Team

    (Morocco World News) Rabat – After long-range efforts to regain his football skills, Moroccan international midfielder Adel Taarabt scored a fabulous goal on Wednesday for his Italian team, Genoa, in a Serie A game against Napoli.

    Despite their loss, Genoa showed great skill in terms of defense, especially in the second half of the match. The 28-year-old Moroccan opened the game with the stunning strike in fourth minute of the match. Ten minutes later, the opponent’s forward and midfielder Dries Mertens scored an equalizer.

    Napoli’s second goal came at the 30-minute mark, again by Mertens. Ervin Zukanovic, Genoa’s defender, scored a goal in his own net, giving the opponent a 3-1 lead. However, Armado Izzo trimmed the deficit to one point, when he scored a goal for his team in the 60 minute of the match.

    In a post-match interview with beIN Sports, Taarabt expressed his happiness in Moroccan Arabic to score his goal against “one of the best teams in the world after Barcelona or Real Madrid.”

    The footballer said that he played two games against Wednesday’s opponent. “I scored two goals against them so far. I am happy. […] We hoped for more in order to achieve more points. Unfortunately, we could not, but I am happy that I have scored against them.”

    The footballer expressed hope over his future, explaining that he was working hard to get back in shape after gaining weight during a two-year absence. “I worked for more than three months to get back to my level. I am happy and Inshallah [God willing] I have to keep going like this.”

    After being asked by the beIN Sports reporter about if he was expecting an invitation from Morocco’s football coach Herve Renard to participate in the upcoming World Cup Qualifier game against Ivory Coast, the footballer answered the question with sparkling eyes. “I did well with Genoa to be able to re-join the Moroccan team.”

    “The Moroccan squad played good matches. There is still a solo match to be qualified for the World Cup and I hope to be invited by Herve.”

    The midfielder added that he “needs to keep working on himself like now. I am now more grown up, and I hope we can make it to the World Cup.” Taarabt concluded his message by wishing to receive a call from Renard “in order to travel to Ivory Coast and achieve a good result.”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPz72zZifK0

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  • CAF CL: Al Ahly, Wydad Casablanca face off in CAF CL final

    (Gulf Today) Moroccan Champions Wydad Casablanca prepare to face Egyptian legends Al Ahly SC, as the first leg of the CAF Champions League final kicks off on Saturday at the Borg El Arab Stadium in Egypt.

    The winner of the final will secure a coveted spot at the world’s biggest club football competition, the FIFA Club World 0Cup UAE 2017, where they’ll face CONCACAF champions, CF Pachuca, in the quarter-final round of the tournament.

    The 14th edition of the FIFA Club World Cup will be held in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain from Dec.6-16.

    A total of eight matches will be contested, between seven regional champions for the ultimate club accolade.

    Having previously competed in the tournament five times in 2005, 2006, 2008, 2012, and 2013, Al Ahly SC are no strangers to the FIFA Club World Cup.

    Wydad Casablanca arrive at the CAF Champions League final with the hopes of qualifying for the FIFA Club World Cup for the first time in their history.

    Their city rivals, Raja Casablanca, became the first Moroccan and Arab team to reach a FIFA Club World Cup final in 2013.

    Al Ahly SC will head into the final in high hopes, following a sensational semi-final win against Etoile du Sahel with an aggregate score of 7-4.

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  • WC2018: Egypt assistant coach hopes to avoid Germany, Morocco in 2018 World Cup finals

    (Ahram Online) Egypt's assistant coach Osama Nabih said that he hopes his team will not face Germany or Morocco in the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia, while also expressing his confidence in the Pharaohs' ability to reach the second round of the tournament.

    The Pharaohs are awaiting December's 2018 World Cup draw which will determine their scheduled opponents.

    "I don't want to face Germany," Nabih told a television programme.

    "Among the Arab teams, I hope to not face Morocco if they qualify alongside Saudi Arabia and Tunisia," he added.

    The Pharaohs sealed their World Cup ticket with one match to spare in Group E after beating Congo 2-1 in a dramatic clash in Alexandria on 8 October, thanks to a brace from star winger Salah, which included a stoppage-time penalty.

    "Whomever we will face in the groups stage, I am confident of the players' ability to reach the second round of the World Cup in Russia," Nabih said.

    Early this month, Nabih revealed that he prefers to play Brazil in the group stage of the finals in Russia.

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