• WC 2018: Morocco’s best and worst case draw scenarios

    (Africanfootball.com) Ahead of tomorrow’s draw for the 2018 World Cup, AfricanFootball looks at both the best and worst case group stage scenarios for Morocco’s Atlas Lions.

    Which pot are Morocco in?

    The North Africans are in Pot 4 because their world ranking in October (48) put them amongst the eight lowest-rated teams to qualify for Russia 2018.

    Which teams can they be drawn against?

    - One of the teams in Pot 1: Russia, Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Poland and France

    - One of the teams in Pot 2: Spain, Peru, Switzerland, England, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay and Croatia

    - One of the following teams in Pot 3: Denmark, Iceland, Costa Rica, Sweden, Iran

    Which teams can they not be drawn against?

    All of the other teams in Pot 4 - Nigeria, Serbia, Australia, Japan, Panama, South Korea and Saudi Arabia - as well as the three Africans teams in Pot 3: Tunisia, Egypt and Senegal.

    What’s their best-case scenario?

    From Pot 1, Morocco will want to draw Russia. The 2018 hosts are easily the weakest team in that pool. Short of getting the home side, Belgium and Poland are probably a touch overrated and have traditionally struggled at big tournaments.

    From Pot 2 they’ll want to draw Peru, who haven’t been to the World Cup since 1982, or one of England, Switzerland or Croatia - they’re all fine teams, but not as powerful and dangerous as the likes of Spain, Uruguay and Mexico.

    From Pot 3 the Atlas Lions will want to draw Iceland, who are making their tournament debut and have overachieved just by qualifying. But in truth, none of the other teams from Pot 3 are particularly strong.

    Summary: Morocco’s dream group stage draw would see them pooled with Russia, Peru and Iceland.

    And their worst?

    It couldn’t get much worse than drawing reigning world champions Germany from Pot 1, 2010 winners Spain from Pot 2 and then Costa Rica from Pot 3 (because you can only have two European teams in a group).

    Or how about Brazil from Pot 1, Spain from Pot 2 and Denmark from Pot 3? Either way, that’s about as bad as it can get for Morocco.

    Summary: Germany, Spain and Costa Rica, or Brazil, Spain and Denmark - either would represent the worst case for the Atlas Lions.

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  • The Final Draw: How it works

    (FIFA.com) Featuring 32 teams, eight unbiased pairs of hands and millions of TV viewers, the Final Draw for the 21st FIFA World Cup™ will take place this coming Friday in Moscow. FIFA.com answers all your questions about this key date on the football calendar.

    Who are the top seeds?

    Russia, as the host country, along with Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Poland and France are the highest-ranked teams in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking in October 2017.

    What time does the Final Draw start?

    The ceremony begins at 16:00 CET (18:00 local time).

    Where will the Final Draw be held?

    In the concert hall at the State Kremlin Palace, which has a capacity of 6,000. The hall has been graced by some of the world’s leading singers and performers, among them Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, Julio Iglesias and Elton John, and has also hosted opera and ballet productions and performances by Le Cirque du Soleil.

    Who will perform the Final Draw?

    Former England forward Gary Lineker, an adidas Golden Boot winner at Mexico 1986, will conduct the Final Draw with the support of Russian sports journalist Maria Komandnaya. They will be assisted by eight giants of the game: France’s Laurent Blanc, England’s Gordon Banks, Brazil’s Cafu, Italy’s Fabio Cannavaro, Uruguay’s Diego Forlan, Argentina’s Diego Maradona, Spain’s Carles Puyol and Russia’s Nikita Simonyan.

    How have the qualifiers been allocated to the four pots?

    The October 2017 FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking has been used to allocate the qualified teams to the four pots according to their ranking in descending order, after hosts Russia, who take the top seeding spot.

    What is the procedure for the Final Draw?

    The four pots will be emptied by drawing the eight teams they each contain one by one and placing them in the eight groups of four teams (Groups A to H). Hosts Russia will occupy the top position in Group A, while the seven other seeds will occupy the top spots in Groups B to H. The positions of all the other teams (from pots 2, 3 and 4) will be decided when they are drawn.

    As is customary at Final Draws, a ball will be drawn from the team pots and then another from the group pots to determine the position in which the team in question will play.

    With the exception of UEFA, which has more qualifiers (14) than there are groups (8), no teams from the same confederation can be drawn in the same group.

    Where can I follow the Final Draw?

    FIFA.com will be providing exhaustive coverage of the event on its live blog from 10:00 (local time). We will also be providing regular updates on our Instagram account, Twitter account and the FIFA World Cup Facebook page.

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  • WC 2018: Morocco and Wolves midfielder Romain Saiss dismisses World Cup racism worries

    By Press Association

    Morocco midfielder Romain Saiss has dismissed fears the World Cup will be marred by racism.

    The Wolves star is hopeful next year’s tournament in Russia can avoid major problems despite concerns.

    Saiss helped Morocco qualify for their first World Cup in 20 years with the country waiting to discover their opponents in Friday’s draw.

    FIFA president Gianni Infantino said racism has been made a “high priority” and referees will be given the power to abandon games if necessary but Saiss remains unfazed.

    He told Press Association Sport: “I’m not especially worried, I know before it was difficult but today racism doesn’t have a place in football or the world.

    “You can’t have racism at the World Cup because you have a lot of countries from Europe, Africa and South America.

    “I hope we won’t have any problems because it’s the best competition in the world. We have to show the good examples to the rest of the world.”

    Saiss was at the centre of a storm last season when Newcastle’s Jonjo Shelvey was given a five-game ban and a £100,000 fine after being found guilty of using racially-aggravated language towards the Moroccan.

    Shelvey denied the charge and Saiss admitted he found the incident tough to deal with.

    “Last season I had this problem with racism and it’s difficult for everyone when some people try to do something about your religion or origin,” he said.

    “Football is just a game, you have to play, enjoy and it’s just a pleasure. Nobody is perfect but when we play and you hear something about your origin we have to kick it out.”

    Saiss was eight-years-old when Morocco last played at the World Cup in 1998 and now 27 he is eager to make history, with his country having only qualified from the group stage once, in 1986, in four appearances.

    “Yes, we’d like to pass out of the group. I’d prefer if we lost it’s against a big team than one who’s similar to us. When we go it’s to play against the best in the world,” he said.

    “Everyone in Morocco was crazy with the qualification. It’s maybe better to play against a good side like France or England as it helps you focus. In qualification we had a hard group and finished first.”

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  • WC 2018: Africa's World Cup draw history ahead of Russia 2018

    (ESPN) Africa's teams will be hoping for a favourable World Cup draw on Friday at the Kremlin in Moscow as they go into the hat to be split into eight groups of four teams each.

    Egypt, Senegal and Tunisia are in Pot 3 for the draw, while Morocco and Nigeria are in Pot 4. FIFA's general principle is to ensure that no group has more than one team from the same qualification zone drawn in it, but with Europe's 14 teams in the draw, there will be some groups with more than one European team.

    African sides have been placed in the same group as the defending champions on five occasions -- in 1974, 1978, 1990, 1998 and 2002 -- while countries that have been grouped with an African side the most at the World Cup are Argentina, Brazil, and Germany.

    The first African team at a World Cup was Egypt in 1934, but back then the finals in Italy -- only the second ever -- was nothing like the structured affair it is today. Then it was a straight knockout, and Egypt were paired against Hungary in Naples and lost 4-2.

    The subsequent draws for Morocco were:

    1970 (Mexico)

    The was draw held in January of 1970 at a Mexico City hotel without any seeding, although FIFA had initially hinted they would do so. Instead, the 16 finalists were divided into four 'geographical groupings', which also took into account the teams' strengths and even political considerations. Morocco had threatened to withdraw from the tournament if they were grouped with Israel, as they had done at the Olympic football tournament in Mexico City two years earlier. The 10-year-old daughter of Guillermo Cañedo, President of the Mexican Football Federation and the Local Organising Committee, drew out the teams from four silver cups, with Morocco grouped with West Germany (runners-up in 1966), Bulgaria and Peru. The north Africans finished bottom with one point.

    1986 (Mexico)

    The first-ever December draw was in a TV studio in Mexico City, less than three months after a massive earthquake had devastated many parts of the city and put the tournament in doubt. Algeria were back and this time drew Brazil, Northern Ireland and Spain, finishing last in Group D with just a single point. Morocco were in Group F with three European countries -- England, Poland and Portugal -- and upset the odds to finish top of the standings and become the first African side to advance past the opening round.

    1994 (USA)

    The draw was in Las Vegas, the first time in a city that was not hosting any games, and featured comedian Robin Williams, who kept making fun of draw master Blatter, calling him "Mr. Bladder" and putting on a surgical glove and saying to Blatter, "If you'll turn your head to the side and cough" before drawing the teams. Africa's representation went up to three teams with Nigeria debuting, alongside Cameroon and Morocco. Cameroon were in Group B with Brazil, Sweden and Russia and finished last. Nigeria were top of Group D ahead of Argentina, Bulgaria and Greece. Morocco played in the extreme heat in Orlando for games against Belgium and the Netherlands, and were also beaten by Saudi Arabia in New York.

    1998 (France)

    Marseille's Stade Velodrome was the first stadium to host a World Cup finals draw with 32 teams in the pots, with Africa's representation up to five. Debutants South Africa became the first to be placed in the same group with the hosts and also had Denmark and Saudi Arabia. Morocco were with holders Brazil in Group A, as well as Norway and Scotland. It was the fourth time an African country had been drawn with Brazil. In Group B, Cameroon finished last behind Italy, Chile and Austria, while Nigeria finished top of Group D ahead of Bulgaria, Paraguay and Spain. In Group G, Tunisia finished last behind Romania, England and Colombia.

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  • WC 2018: Excitement high for debutants and returning heroes

    MOROCCO

    The Atlas Lions are back at the World Cup for the first time in two decades, having topped and emerged unbeaten from a group that included Côte d'Ivoire, Gabon and Mali.

    The star

    In captain Medhi Benatia, a powerful and composed centre-half, Morocco possess one of the best defenders in Africa.

    The stat

    The Moroccans have registered two victories and four draws at the World Cup, and all six of these have come against European opposition.

    The quote

    "We don't fear anyone. I want my side to be drawn in the same group as France. It would be a great honour for me to face France in the World Cup."

    Herve Renard, Morocco coach

    From FIFA.com

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  • Transfers: Adel Taarabt eyed by Spanish clubs

    (TheAtlasLions.com) Spanish clubs like FC Sevilla are eying Adel Taarabt reported various media recently.

    http://www.calciomercato.com/news/genoa-taarabt-piace-in-spagna-38041

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  • Transfers: Watford ready to move for Amiens’ Moroccan full-back Oualid El Hajjam

    (TheSun.co.uk) WATFORD are ready to move for Moroccan full-back Oualid El Hajjam in January.

    Vicarage Road scouts have seen the 26-year-old play regularly for Amiens.

    And the right-back, born in France, is a £2.5million target to bolster Marco Silva’s squad for the second half of the season.

    Silva wants competition in that area of his team and El Hajjam could increase in value if he shines in the Premier League.

    He has been tipped to go to the World Cup with Morocco after establishing himself in Ligue 1.

    El Hajjam has been with Amiens since 2011 after three years with Le Mans.

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  • Moroccans Abroad: Is Ouasim Bouy destined to be another Amadou Haidara at Leeds United?

    Leeds United signed another defender who looks unlikely to make the grade at Elland Road.

    While Leeds United signed a number of new players last summer that have made an immediate impact at Elland Road, it is easy to forget they also made a move for a 24-year-old defender-cum-midfielder who was instantly loaned out to Cultural Leonesa.

    Ouasim Bouy was a bizarre addition to a side that clearly did not need him, bringing him in on a free transfer before shipping him off to a partner-club and hoping for the best.

    Unfortunately for Bouy, things have not gone according to plan thus far, with the Moroccan barely getting a look-in for his loan club, featuring only four times to date and having to make do with just 54 minutes action in La Liga 2.

    General view of Elland Road before the Sky Bet Championship match between Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday at Elland Road on February 25, 2017 in Leeds, England.

    It does not bode well for the future, with Leeds unlikely to be giving much game time to a player who is currently being overlooked more often than not; especially when you factor in the players already at the Whites' disposal.

    The issue remains that Bouy is, for now at least, a Leeds player, and if he does arrive in England at the end of his loan spell he could quickly fall by the wayside just as another obscure addition did before him.

    Some Leeds fans question whether Amadou Haidara actually exists, but the French defender who arrived at Elland Road in the summer of 2016 has turned out a few times for the under-23s.

    Ouasim Bouy in action during a US Citta' di Palermo training session at Carmelo Onorato training center on October 5, 2016 in Palermo, Italy.

    More recently it seems he is simply seeing out his time at a club where he was never likely to break through, and it would be no surprise if Bouy ultimately follows a similar path.

    Both players are at an age when they should be playing regular first-team football, but if Bouy does come to Leeds he could quickly fall into the same category as a player who is destined to be little more than the answer to a pub quiz question in the years to come.

    http://www.hitc.com/en-gb/2017/11/28/is-ouasim-bouy-destined-to-be-another-amadou-haidara-at-leeds-un/

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  • 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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