Morocco, much like Iran will appear in only their 5th ever World Cup finals. The last of the Group B side’s appearance came 20 years ago.
Things this time around look a little different to most years, however. The Moroccans cruised their way through qualifying without picking up a single loss – Although they did draw 3 of their games 0-0.
Morocco Squad Outlook
Mounir El Kajoui (Numancia), Yassine Bounou (Girona), Ahmad Reda Tagnaouti (Ittihad Tanger), Mehdi Benatia (Juventus), Romain Saiss (Wolves), Manuel Da Costa (Basaksehir), Badr Benoun (Raja Casablanca), Nabil Dirar (Fenerbahce), Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid), Hamza Mendyl (LOSC), M’barek Boussoufa (Al Jazira), Karim El Ahmadi (Feyenoord), Youssef Ait Bennasser (Caen), Sofyan Amrabat (Feyenoord), Younes Belhanda (Galatasaray), Faycal Fajr (Getafe), Amine Harit (Schalke 04) Khalid Boutaib (Malatyaspor), Aziz Bouhaddouz (Saint Pauli), Ayoub El Kaabi (Renaissance Berkane), Nordin Amrabat (Leganes), Mehdi Carcela (Standard de Liege), Hakim Ziyech (Ajax).
Squad Talk: There’s a lot of talent in this Morocco side that you may not have noticed at first glance. Juventus rock and Arsenal target Benatia, Hakimi of Real Madrid, Amrabat and El Ahmadi – both of Feyenoord. I would even go as far as to say that Monaco is a genuinely decent bet of making the knockout phase.
Beating Iran in the first game would set up an interesting tie with Portugal, and if they provide a surprise upset they could very well advance into the knockouts regardless of their result with Spain.
For those that don’t think it’s possible, well it’s exactly what they did to get out of a group with England, Poland and of course Portugal in 1986. The game that sent them through to the last 16 was the victory over Portugal.
Typically, I wouldn’t argue that Benatia is the Moroccans best player, at least in the current squad. And although I would consider him their most important player with how they set up he is certainly not as talented as 24-year old Ayoub El Kaabi. Kaabi was the leading scorer at the last AFCON, has netted 10 goals in 8 games for the Atlas Lions and 47 goals in 56 games for Renaissance Sportive de Berkane (or the oranges) in the “Moroccan Championship Botola”.
Fun Fact: The “Moroccan Championship Botola” is one of the only global leagues not covered by Lazy Fan Sports.
Another Moroccan to look out for is Hakim Ziyech who currently earns his keep by destroying defenders in the Eredivisie. The 25-year-old midfielder was also named the Dutch Football of The Year for the 2017/18 season by topping the assist charts (15). A watered-down Kevin De Bruyne comes to mind.
King of the Country
The best player you’ve never heard of? Ahmed Faras. The original Atlas Lion is currently 71 years old. He retired from the beautiful game in 1982 after scoring 231 goals for his boyhood club Chabab Mohammedia and 42 goals for Morocco.
Here’s a rundown of Fara’s achievements:
- Named African player of the year in 1975
- Captained his nation for 8 years
- Won the AFCON in 1976
- Played (well) in the 1970 World Cup Finals
- Represented his nation in the 1972 Olympic games
Who’s the Gaffa
After guiding Zambia to the 2012 AFCON championships and then winning the tournament again 3 years later with the Ivory Coast. Herve Renard became the Morocco manager in 2016 after a very brief stint with Lille.
Morocco plays a style of football very similar to that of Liverpool in actual fact. There is an emphasis on pressing upfield in numbers whilst also making possession count in spells.
They don’t exactly have the players to make it super effective but you should at the very least see some enjoyable play from the African side.
Likely Group Finish: 3rd
It’s not I don’t they lack talent, it’s simply down to being in a horrible group with 2 of the best nations on the planet. I wouldn’t be completely surprised to see them progress but I’m not expecting them too.
Lazy Fan Fact: Over 60% of Morocco’s players were born in Europe