As the mega-event of football is all set to kick off in style on June 14 as host country Russia takes on Saudi Arabia at the very first game and Morocco is one of the countries to be watched out for in this grand festival. The nation lying on the Northern frontier of the continent of Africa makes it’s first appearance after 20 years in the World Cup. The team is to be led by former Ivory Coast coach, Herve Rernard. Morocco will face Spain, Portugal and Iran in Group B. Morocco need a huge upset to get through this tough group with giants like Spain and Portugal, who are favorites to get through to the next stage.
Morocco are entering the World Cup with a record of not conceding even a single goal in their six qualifying games. The squad was a bit surprise to everyone as Saints’ star player Sofiane Boufal was left out. Boufal was once record signing for Southampton and he is with them since 2016. Morocco’s best finish in the world cup was in 1986 when they reached the round of 16 after topping the group with England, Portugal and Poland. The defence of Morocco is one to watch out for as they have conceded just 11 in last 23 games in 2 years.
● SQUAD ANALYSIS:
Yassine Bounou will be guarding the goal for Morocco. Yassine Bounou has done well for his club Girona with 66 caps to his name which includes 18 clean sheets. He has made 11 appearances in National colors since 2012.
Mounir El Kajoui, who plays for club Numancia will be the other choice for Herve Rernard to start. Mounir has made 74 appearances for his club and 26 appearances for his Nation as well. Ahmed Reda Tagnaouti is the third choice shot-stopper in the squad having just made one appearance for Morocco. Tagnaouti plies his trade in Morocco for Ittihad Tanger making 25 appearances for his side.
Morocco is known for its defence and coming into the World Cup without conceding goals in their qualifying games which gives them strength to face sides like Spain and Portugal. Morocco’s solid defence will be tough to break with likes of experienced Mehdi Benatia. Benatia’s experience will be much needed at the back for Morocco. Former Monaco Right back, Nabil Dirar will be key at the flanks with his runs and defending at the back for Morocco. Real Madrid’s young prodigy Achraf Hakimi is also in the squad who has won Champions League with Real Madrid recently and will also be one to watch out for in this tourney.
The squad also includes experienced campaigners like Romain Saiss who plays in England for Wolverhampton Wanderers. Manuel Da Costa, Badr Benon and Hamza Mendyl who play for Lille in France are also in the 23-man squad.
Midfield of Morocco looks good with experienced players like Mbark Boussoufa, who is playing for Al Jazira in UAE. The 33-year old attacking midfielder has the ability to play as a winger and will be causing trouble from the left side. Former Monaco midfielder Youssef Bennasser will also be a key player in the midfield pulling the strings. Another young midfielder along Bennasser is Sofyan Amrabat who plays in Netherlands for Feyenoord. Experienced Younes Belhanda from Galatasaray will be the man to attack up front who has already 3 goals for Morocco in his 44 appearances. Getafe’s attacking midfielder Faycal Fajr will also look to go upfront and grab the opportunity. Young Amine Harit is also one player to watch out for. Karim El Ahmadi is also in the options of Herve Rernard.
Hakim Ziyech, 25, sharp shooter will be the man who will cause threat in the opposition half. Ajax player following Eriksen will be the one who can score for Morocco. He has made just 15 appearances and scored 8 goals for Morocco. Experienced Nordin Amrabat from Leganes, Mehdi Carcela from Standard de Liege, Aziz Bouhaddouz from St. Pauli and Khalid Boutaib from Malatyaspor will be lining up with Ziyech to find the net. Ayoub EL Kaabi has just made 3 appearances for his national side and scored 2 goals. The Forward line is completely dependent upon the in-form man Ziyech who has been quite good inside the box.
● Hurdles In The Group :
Morocco will kick off their campaign against Iran on 15th June, following a game against Portugal on 20th June and at last against Spain on 25th June.
• Morocco vs Iran- 15th June, 2018.
• Portugal vs Morocco- 20th June, 2018.
• Spain vs Morocco- 25th June, 2018.
● TEAM RATING:
• Goalkeeping: 6/10
• Defence: 7/10
• Midfield: 6/10
• Forward: 6.5/10
• Overall: 6.3/10
● PAST RECORD IN WORLD CUP:
Morocco side plays World Cup after 20 years and has the highest achievement of qualifying for the Round of 16. Morocco’s best finish came during 1986 World Cup where Morocco topped the group with England, Portugal and Poland. After reaching Round of 16, Morocco were eliminated by West Germany. This was Morocco’s best finish in any of their World Cup campaign.
● RECENT FORM:
Atlas Lions have an unbeaten run of 16 games which include an African Nations Championship Final win against Nigeria which ended in a score line 4-0 in favor of Morocco. Recent win was against Slovakia in which El Kaabi and Belhanda scored for Moroccan side which ended in 2-1. This form will be tested against big sides such as Spain, Portugal and Iran in the group stages.
● WRITER’S TAKE:
Morocco, who are entering World Cup after 20 years under Herve Renard will be finding tough to go past strong sides in their group. A win against Iran in the opener will create some pressure to Spain and Portugal. Morocco has just 2 wins in the World Cup which came against Portugal and Scotland in 1986 and 1998. Hence, it is unlikely that they will advance to the next round but there are some chances if Spain and Portugal slip up.