In our Morocco Preview: World Cup 2018, we share our analysis about this Morocco team who have gone 20 years without making an appearance in the World Cup.
Morocco Preview: World Cup 2018
Goalkeepers: Mounir El Kajoui, Yassine Bounou, Ahmad Reda Tagnaouti
Defenders: Mehdi Benatia, Romain Saiss, Manuel Da Costa, Nabil Dirar, Achraf Hakimi, Hamza Mendyl
Midfielders: M’barek Boussoufa, Karim El Ahmadi, Youssef Ait Bennasser, Sofyan Amrabat, Younes Belhanda, Faycal Fajr, Amine Harit
Forwards: Khalid Boutaib, Aziz Bouhaddouz, Ayoub El Kaabi, Nordin Amrabat, Mehdi Carcela, Hakim Ziyech, Youssef En Nesyri
- Manager: Herve Renard
- Captain: Medhi Benatia
- Best Finish: Second Round (1986)
Likely starting lineup
If Morocco hadn’t been drawn in a group alongside Spain and Portugal, there may be a few tipping them as possible sleepers at the 2018 World Cup.
After all, they have one of the most experienced international coaches around in Herve Renard, who has brought some solidity and identity back to the team. Crucially, though, there are some fine players set to feature for the Atlas Lions.
At the back skipper Medhi Benatia has enjoyed a colossal campaign for Juventus, making Bianconeri supporters quickly forget about the departure of Leonardo Bonucci last summer. He’s set to be partnered at the back by Romain Saiss, who has impressed in defence since being converted from midfield.
It’s in attack where Morocco really have the potential to excite. Mbark Boussoufa is a high-class playmaker and is supported well by the diligent Karim El Ahmadi. They offer an excellent platform from which the creative talents further forward can operate, including Ajax’s Player of the Year Hakim Ziyech.
Alongside Nordin Amrabat and Younes Belhanda, there’s potential for some fluid passages fo play from Renard’s side. The trio in support of Khalid Boutaib have an effective blend of attributes, including pace, power and the ability to unlock stingy defenses.
Getting out of this group may prove beyond them given the pedigree of the two European superpowers, yet Moroccan supporters may not mind too much as long as their side gives them something to enjoy. This’ll be the first time in 20 years they’ve been involved in a World Cup.
• Cord cutter’s guide to World Cup 2018
• World Cup shirts for all 32 teams
• FAQ on World Cup TV coverage in USA
Key Man – Hakim Ziyech
Plenty of scouts across world football would’ve been keeping an eye on Ziyech for a while based on his performances for Ajax during the last two seasons. He recently admitted he quite fancies a new challenge too.
If the Moroccan does make his mark on the biggest stage in the sport here, then the Dutch outfit will surely find him a difficult player to keep hold of.
Ziyech is the creative heartbeat for club and country. Regardless of where he plays—he’s operated on either flank and as a No. 10 at times—he always seems to find a way of getting himself into the game with sharp movements and appreciation of space.
What he’s done well since arriving at Ajax is improve his productivity. In the top flight last season he scored nine times and laid on an impressive 15 goals for his team-mates. The 25-year-old looks to be a player ready to burst into life.
Morocco are technically proficient and subsequently they should be able to get the ball into Ziyech often. If they are to progress at the expense of either Spain or Portugal, you feel as though he’ll need to be decisive.
Morocco’s Group Stage fixtures
Friday, June 15
Morocco vs. Iran, 11am, FOX, Telemundo, Sling Blue and fubo (7-day free trial)
Wednesday, June 20
Portugal vs. Morocco, 8am, FS1, Telemundo, Sling Blue and fubo (7-day free trial)
Monday, June 25
Spain vs. Morocco, 2pm, FS1, Universo, Sling Blue and fubo (7-day free trial)
Morocco’s path to the final
If Morocco wins Group B, their Round of 16 game will be against the country that finishes second from Group A which will either be Russia, Uruguay, Saudi Arabia or Egypt. If Morocco wins that Round of 16 game, Morocco will enter the quarterfinal stage with a game against the winner of Group D (Argentina, Iceland, Nigeria or Croatia) versus the team that finishes second in Group C (either France, Australia, Peru or Denmark). If Morocco advances to the semi-final stage, it’ll play the winner of the quarterfinal that comes out of the F1 vs. E2 versus H1 vs. G2 series.
If Morocco finishes second in Group B, Morocco will play the team that finishes first in Group A (either Russia, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay or Egypt). If Morocco wins that game, it would be in the quarterfinal against whoever is victorious between the winner of Group C (either France, Australia, Peru or Denmark) and the team that finishes second in Group D (either Argentina, Iceland, Croatia or Nigeria). If Morocco advances to the semi-final stage, it’ll play the winner of the quarterfinal that comes out of the E1 vs. F2 versus G1 vs. H2 series.
• Previews for all 32 World Cup teams
• World Cup Bracket (free download)
• World Cup groups
• World Cup TV schedule
Morocco World Cup shirt (home)
Morocco World Cup shirt (away)
If you have any questions about the Morocco Preview: World Cup 2018, please let us know in the comments section below.
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