Africa Cup of Nations – Morocco Preview

 

Playing squad

It looks like the starting keeper will be Munir Mohand, someone I had to admit I’ve not seen a lot of. The backline could be inconsistent and a lot will depend on the performances of Mehdi Benatia. Morocco's highest valued player has been in and out of the Juventus team this season and also suffered some injury issues. Benatia is the most capped player in this squad and they need him to deliver the goods. Guys like Da Costa and Romain Saiss could also feature at the back. Herve Renard is usually fairly good tactically so they should be organised defensively.

Midfield could be a bit lightweight and most of their better players are technicians. An important player was set to be Younes Belhanda, but an injury picked up in December means he’s ruled out. The performances of Feyenoord’s Karim El Ahmadi will now be crucial for them in the middle. A key man for the Atlas Lions upfront is Youssef El Arabi who has a fairly good goalscoring record. He plays his club football in Qatar these days, but it doesn’t seem to be doing him any harm. Sofiane Boufal and Nordin Amrabat have also both been ruled out due to injury, which is more bad news. Instead, the likes of Rachid Aliaoui & Khalid Boutaib might have to be relied upon more. These guys who have been in good form this season so should at least head into the tournament in a confident mood.

Draw & outlook

Morocco are coached by Herve Renard, who won the previous African Nations Cup with Ivory Coast. He also won the competition with Zambia in 2012 and on both occasions his teams prevailed on penalties after a 0-0 draw in the final. This rather sums Renard up. He is a pretty negative and defensive minded coach. A whopping 12 of his 13 games in charge of Ligue 1 side Lille ended in under 2.5 goals. Morocco's’ first two recent World Cup qualifying games have both ended 0-0. Whether or not his style of management suits the Atlas Lions I’m not sure. I personally see Morocco a very similar side to Algeria, but with less talent. They have some very good technical players but might be lacking physically compared to the big muscular outfits.  Morocco aren’t in a bad section of the draw and the only top team in their group is the Ivory Coast, who perhaps aren't as strong as they used to be. Injuries have hit the team hard though, especially in attacking areas and I think they’ll lack for goals. A Herve Renard side can never be ruled out of this competition and his record in extra time matches is pretty good. However, maybe he’ll find a few sides too good for him this time around. I see it as a toss up between themselves and DRC who finishes second to Ivory Coast in the group. Maybe that lack of a potent threat upfront could result in a shock early elimination.

Group prediction: 3rd