• 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.

  • 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’)


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