Russia 2018: Morocco under the spotlight

By Mutala Yakubu
Morocco national team
Morocco national team

The Morocco national team nicknamed the "Lions of the Atlas" have a huge reputation in the World Cup and go into Russia 2018 with determination.

They were the first African team to win a group at the World Cup, which they did in 1986, finishing ahead of Portugal, Poland, and England. They were also the first African team to make it to the second round, barely losing to eventual runners-up West Germany 1–0 in 1986.

Morocco qualified for the 2018 World Cup for the first time in 20 years.

Morocco qualified for Russia 2018 in grand style, topping a group that had favourite Ivory Coast, Gabon, and Mali.

They are in Group B of the World Cup with Portugal, Spain and Iran.

Let's take a closer look at Morocco.


 Hervé Renard will coach Morocco at Russia 2018Morocco is coached by Hervé Renard, he has previously been the manager of the Zambian national team, with whom he won the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations; he also won the competition in 2015 Africa Cup of Nations with the Ivory Coast, becoming the first coach to win two Africa Cup of Nations with different countries.

Renard is highly revered in Africa and seen as one of the best tacticians in World Football.

Read also:Stage set: 23-man squad of all 32 World Cup 2018 teams

The calm and collected figure will be on the touchlines when Morocco does battle at Russia 2018.

Star players:

 Morocco will be captained by Medhi BenatiaMedhi Benatia is the captain of Morocco, the Juventus defender is a rock at the back and will control the defence of Morocco.
His rich experience in Europe will be key for his side as he comes up against Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal.

Hakim Ziyech will be the star man in the Morocco midfieldHakim Ziyech is the brain in that Moroccan midfield. He represented the Netherlands at youth level but opted to play for Morocco at the senior level.

The Ajax player is known for his technique and free kick ability.

Morocco will heavily rely on his creativity.

The best thing about them

Morocco have some experience playersThey have a number of experienced players like team captain Mehdi Benatia from Juventus, and Manuel da Costa from Istanbul Basaksehir, mixed with a couple of young-bloods like Achraf Hakimi, 19 years old defender from Real Madrid, and Amine Harit, 20 years old midfielder from Schakle 04, that are predicted to have great careers ahead of them.

When we put the firm and experienced hand of Herve Renard as a head coach in the mix, we get a team that might be capable of the creation of upsets in summer.


Morocco fans will travel to Russia 2018Moroccans’ support for the national team is indescribable. The number of Moroccan fans who will travel to Russia to support the national team in the World Cup, after 20 years of absence, is expected to exceed 11,000 people

The worst thing about them

Morocco will face a tough time playing Spain and PortugalMorocco is considered as an underdog in the Group B that contains Spain and Portugal, and just like Iran, they will be susceptible to a scare when playing with those kinds of top-tier teams.

Another potentially big weakness might be their pre-World Cup friendly games schedule because they haven’t managed to arrange a matchup with the team that plays a similar style of soccer as their group opponents, making them unready for the competition.

Here is Morocco's 23 -man squad:

Morocco 23-man squadGoalkeepers: Mounir El Kajoui (Numancia), Yassine Bounou (Girona), Ahmad Reda Tagnaouti (Ittihad Tanger)

Defenders: Mehdi Benatia (Juventus), Romain Saiss (Wolves), Manuel Da Costa (Basaksehir), Nabil Dirar (Fenerbahce), Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid), Hamza Mendyl (LOSC)

Midfielders: 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)

Forwards: Khalid Boutaib (Malatyaspor), Aziz Bouhaddouz (Saint Pauli), Ayoub El Kaabi (Renaissance Berkane), Nordin Amrabat (Leganes), Mehdi Carcela (Standard de Liege), Hakim Ziyech (Ajax), Youssef En-Nesyri (Malaga).

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