Greetings football fans and happy New Year! Now that we’re officially in 2018, we don’t need to make any excuses to look ahead to the World Cup—it’ll be upon us in a matter of months! With this in mind, we’re cracking on with some new teams. If you’re a DailyFantasyUK regular, you’ve already buffed up on Panama, Peru, Iceland and Senegal. An impressive start, sure, but there’s plenty more to cover!
This time we’re visiting a team the competition would view as an old friend. It’s one of only 3 countries that has coastlines along both the Mediterranean and Atlantic Ocean. They’re crazy about football and earned the honour of being the first African team to top a group in stage one of football’s biggest competition. Sadly, they’ve suffered a 20 year World Cup drought. But that ends now.
Join us as we get to know… Morocco!
Location: North African coast
Capital City: Rabat
Official Language(s): Arabic & Berber
Famous for: Tea, couscous, tagines and excellent markets.
Fun Fact: Instead of the heart, the liver is actually considered a symbol of love in Morocco.
Road to the World Cup
The so-called “Atlas Lions” have a history of heartbreak when it comes to the World Cup. In France ’98 Morocco looked to be heading into the knockout stage as they were beating Scotland in their final game of the group stage. To everyone’s shock, however, the other game from the group taking place took a surprising turn. Norway scored two late goals against Brazil (who had already earned their place in the next round) and in doing so replaced Morocco in second place. As we all know, sometimes that’s just how fortunes fall in football!
This upset was followed by a 20 year absence from the competition for Morocco. Things are definitely looking up, though. In 2012 the team won the Arab Nations Cup. Since 2016 they’ve been under the leadership of accomplished former Ivory Coast manager Hervé Renard. He’s already doing great work, with Morocco beating a number of strong African teams to qualify.
Players to Watch
This attacking midfielder plays for Dutch club Ajax. While he played for the Netherlands’ youth team in his early international career, he switched to Morocco in 2015 as a senior. Despite the relatively short length of his career for the Atlas Lions, Ziyech has managed to get himself on the scoresheet and has developed a reputation for being great at free kicks.
Benatia was actually born and raised in France, but when it came to his international career, he decided to play for his father’s country. This is Morocco’s gain as he’s an excellent centre-back and currently serves as the team’s captain. Excellent at tackles and organising a strong defence, Benatia plays for Italian club Juventus outside of his country commitments. He won’t be hard to miss—he’s usually one of the tallest players on the pitch!
Youth and pace for the Morocco team is largely provided by players like Boufal, who only joined the team in 2016. You may recognise him from the Premier League, where he plays for Southampton. The young attacking midfielder is certainly one to watch.
Despite only being 19, Hakimi boasts a club career at Real Madrid and recently scored his first international goal for Morocco in their qualifier against Mali. Not bad for a right-back player! Though born in Spain, Hakimi chose to represent his parents’ country internationally.
Manager: Hervé Renard
FIFA Ranking: 40
There’s no doubt about it, Morocco have drawn one of the toughest groups in the competition. Spain and Portugal, in particular, will be hard to beat. However, Morocco are returning to the competition with a strong combination of experience, youth, speed and confidence. Anything could happen!
What They Have Going For Them
- Morocco’s momentum has been building. They have a new manager with a great background who has already led the club to significant victories. The team also boasts a good mix of old and young players, most of whom play for major clubs—meaning they are used performing well in high pressure situations.
- A great strength for Morocco is that both players and fans believe in the team’s ability to go far in this competition. This is because they have done it before. Morocco already set the record for being the first African team to top a group in the World Cup. They played well in subsequent cups, with their exit from France ’98 largely being down to bad luck. Yes, they’ve been absent from this competition for two decades, but they’ve achieved success elsewhere (Arab Nations Cup, for example) during that time.
The deck may be slightly stacked against them, but Morocco could prove to be one of the great comeback stories of Russia 2018. Fresh faces and heaps of confidence are always useful in football! حظ سعيد!
With new entrants and returning favourites, this World Cup is shaping up to be one of the most exciting yet! Make sure you follow our Get to Know series so you’re fully clued-up by the time June rolls around. We also have plenty of options for all you basketball and NFL fans!
Whatever your game of choice, keep checking in with DailyFantasyUK for the latest news and tips!