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World Cup 2018: Out of Africa – Morocco

CONSISTENT: Mehdi Benatia

Capital: Rabat
Population: 36.1 million
FIFA World Ranking: 42nd

Did you know...?
In the 1986 Mexico World Cup, Morocco beat Portugal 3-1 to become the first ever African team to advance to the knockout stages.

Just this morning, Morocco lost out on hosting the 2026 World Cup. They were defeated by a joint bid from Canada, the USA and Mexico.

World Cup appearances
Morocco will make their return to the World Cup finals this year after a 20 year absence. This is the fifth time that Morocco have qualified for the finals. The four other times were Mexico in 1970 and 1986, U.S.A in 1994 and France in 1998.

Star Player: Mehdi Benatia
The centre-back has played at a host of top European teams, including Roma, Bayern Munich and Marseille before joining his current club Juventus in 2016. Benatia made his international debut in 2008 and has played in three Africa Cup of Nations totalling 50 caps. His ability to control and organise his defence earned him the honour of becoming captain of his country and his stable and consistent style of play make him one of Morocco’s top players. Benatia is known for his tackling ability, as well as being particularly impressive in the air.

One to watch: Hakim Ziyech
The 25-year-old Ajax attacking midfielder has previously been capped for Netherlands under 19s, 20s and 21s between 2012 and 2014, but then made the decision in 2015 to represent Morocco. In his 14 appearances for his country he has scored eight goals, as well as 15 in his 56 league appearances for Ajax. His powerful, left-footed free kicks will be dangerous against any opposition. Ziyech plays technical and skilful football, combined with his speed, athleticism and energy often sees him running rings around defenders. An up and coming star and definitely one to watch in Russia this summer.

Manager: Herve Renard
After a playing career in the French lower leagues between 1983 and 1998, Renard went onto manage a host of teams including a short stint at Cam- bridge United. Nicknamed ‘White Wizard’ led Zimbabwe to an Africa Cup of Nations win in 2012 and went on to become the only manager to win this accolade with different nations when his Ivory Coast team won in 2014. Renard has been Morocco manager since 2016 and signed a new contract until 2022 after his team qualified for this year’s World Cup Finals. This is his first attempt at the World Cup.

Stay tuned for the rest of our World Cup special feature. Tomorrow we profile another African country competing in football's biggest tournament.

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