• World Cup Qualifier: Ivory Coast vs Morocco – Lineups, Preview and Prediction

    Morocco have one foot on the plane to Russia but a win for Les Éléphants and Zaha will see the Lions left at home

    17:30 GMT, Saturday 11th November, Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny (Abidjan, Côte

    d’Ivoire), BT Sport 3

    Having qualified for the last three successive World Cups, the Ivory Coast head into the final group stage game staring at the very real possibility they will miss out next year.

    Marc Wilmots’ side have been poor in comparison to previous years with an inconsistent run in the World Cup Qualifiers which have seen them fail to record a win at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations and more recently have them held by bottom side Mali and losing at home to Gabon.

    Despite losing their grip on top-spot in the table and only recording one win from six competitive games this year, their fate still lies in their own hands.

    Morocco are unbeaten in their five games from Group C (W2, D3) and can qualify if they maintain this status beyond Friday. If they succeed, this will be the first time Morocco have reached the finals since 1998.

    It will be a welcome return to the competition for a side who were the first African nation to win a point and also the first side to progress through the group stages. However, they’re not there yet and they will need to overcome the weight of expectancy which has crippled them for many of the last 20 years.

    Last Time Out

    Mali 0-0 Ivory Coast (World Cup qualification)

    Ivory Coast’s hopes of qualification were left hanging in the balance as a lifeless game saw Mali’s hopes finally extinguished.

    Without many of their star players, it was the absence of Jean Seri in the centre of the team which was most keenly felt as Les Éléphants were unable to dictate proceedings while their makeshift strike force struggled to threaten Mali’s goal.

    Mali’s Moussa Doumbia had the game’s best moment when he had a shot come back off the woodwork midway through the second half. The away side eventually sprung to life at the end of the game but it was too little, too late with a scoreless draw being a fair result and a true reflection of the game.

    Morocco 3-0 Gabon (World Cup qualification)

    A day after Mali held the Ivory Coast to a draw, the Atlas Lions took advantage of the situation to knock Gabon out of the competition and claim pole position in Group C.

    While Gabon manager Jose Antonio Camacho added weight to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s claim the team were pole-axed the day before the game by a batch of soured orange juice, they were still resoundingly beaten by Morocco.

    A hat-trick from Khalid Boutaib was the difference between the two sides although Gabon rarely troubled the home team and produced only two shots on goal during the entire game, neither of those being on target.

    By comparison, the Atlas Lions enjoyed 20 shots on goal with 73% of possession in what was ultimately a comfortable victory for a team who have slowly built up a head of steam through this qualification process.

    Morocco don’t have any major injury concerns and will be able to field the same starting eleven which proved more than sufficient against Gabon last month.

    They do, however, have options from the bench with Southampton’s Soufiane Boufal to call upon and, perhaps more pertinently, Achraf Bencherki who is a young centre-forward who has greatly impressed for Wydad recently.

    Key Battle: Wilfried Zaha (Ivory Coast) vs Medhi Benatia (Morocco)

    Zaha has only been back from injury for one month but has already picked up where he finished last season. As Crystal Palace’s main danger man, Wilmots will be hoping he can bring this same form to his countries table. After choosing to represent his country of birth over England last December, this will be the first time in 20 years that Zaha has been back on native soil. If he can lead his international side to the Finals next summer, he’s likely to get a welcome home he’ll never forget.

    What Morocco don’t have in high-profile, star-name players, they more than make up for in their collective ability. One star name they do possess, however, is captain and Juventus defender, Medhi Benatia.

    As a team who have failed to score in three of their five games in the qualification group, defence has been key to their success. Morocco are yet to concede a goal in Group C and another clean sheet would not only be a remarkable achievement from what many labelled the group of death, it will guarantee them a trip to Russia next year.

    Talking Points

    A chink in the elephant’s skin

    With the Ivory Coast forwards proving to be inconsistent, it has been their defence which has helped to carry them through their recent stumbles. Despite having a weakness between the posts, the back-four have formed a formidable shield to protect their goal.

    Eric Bailly’s suspension means that they will be without a key component this weekend. With Lamine Koné a potential replacement, the out-of-form Sunderland defender cannot compare to the player he’s replacing.

    The elephant’s ghost

    Hervé Renard may not have success at club level but he’s proven himself to be highly adept at leading international sides to relative glory. Having led Zambia to the quarter-final stage of the AFCON in 2010, he then won the tournament with them two years later.

    The first manager to claim the title with two different countries when he managed the Ivory Coast to victory in 2015, Renard is now aiming to impede his old team by taking Morocco to the World Cup finals at their expense. With first-hand inside knowledge of the players, he will have more than just his lucky white shirt to help him prevail.

    Prediction: Ivory Coast 1-2 Morocco

    This fixture is sure to be an all-action affair with the Ivory Coast needing to score to stand any chance of topping the group. The last three results between these two sides since January 2016 have seen a 0-0 draw and a 1-0 win each to leave this tie on a knife-edge.

    However, this game should be more open than those previous encounters. While the home advantage for Les Éléphants can be balanced out with their poor form this year, Renard seems to have found a formula which works at international level and a win for his side will see the Ivory Coast eliminated and, quite possibly, the end of Marc Wilmots’ time in charge of the team.

    https://realsport101.com/news/sports/football/world-cup-qualifier-ivory-coast-vs-morocco-lineups-preview-and-prediction/

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  • WC 2018 Qualifiers: Bad pitch in Abidjan!

    Bad quality of the pitch where the crucial match between The Atlas Lions and Cote d'Ivoire will take place

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7g_49focYbY

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  • 2018 World Cup Qualifiers : Morocco national football team arrived in Abidjan

    Morocco national football team arrived on Wednesday night in Abidjan, where it is supposed to face on Saturday its Ivorian counterpart in a decisive match for the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers.

    On their arrival at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny International Airport, the technical and administrative staffs accompanying the team and the delegation of the Royal Moroccan Football Federation were received by the Ambassador of Morocco to Cote d’Ivoire, Abdelmalek Kettani, and a huge crowd of Moroccan supporters living in Cote d’Ivoire.

    Moroccans in Abidjan gathered for hours at the airport to support members of the national team.

    Morocco will be qualified to the 2018 World Cup supposed to be held in Russia if it manages to defeat the Ivorian Elephants.

    ...More : https://en.yabiladi.com/articles/details/59198/2018-world-qualifiers-morocco-national.html

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  • U21: Morocco held by France 1-1 in friendly

    (TheAtlasLions.com) Morocco U21 and France U21 shared the points in the first friendly game of two.

    Game ended 1-1 where Hicham Boussoufiane scored the goal for Morocco.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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".

    http://www.calciomercato.com/news/genoa-ct-marocco-ecco-perche-taarabt-e-rimasto-a-pegli-35643

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  • 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.

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  • 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.”

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  • 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.

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