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“Morocco” is Africa’s pride in World Cup history

Sarah Almas: In World Cup football, African teams often come up with great surprises. Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana’s World Cup performance is still vivid in everyone’s memory. Maybe not many people know, the rise of Africans in the FIFA World Cup started through Morocco. Those who have given African football a place of honor on the World Cup stage. Morocco, the North African country known as the ‘Atlas Lion’, is coming back to the World Cup stage. Morocco, Qatar, who have played on the FIFA World Cup stage five times in the past, are coming to restore their glory.

Morocco in international football:

Moroccan football has been in the hands of the French colony long before independence in 1956. Morocco formed their first national team in December 1928. The first match was against the ruling France ‘B’ team.

Morocco’s first participation in international football as an independent country was at the 1957 Pan Arab Games. In their first match held in Lebanon, Morocco drew 3-3 against Iraq. Abdelmajid Ghani El-Madani scored the first international goal for the country. And Morocco’s first victory in international football was seen two days later in the same event. Their victory against Libya was 5-1.Morocco’s first participation in international football as an independent country was at the 1957 Pan Arab Games. In their first match held in Lebanon, Morocco drew 3-3 against Iraq. Abdelmajid Ghani El-Madani scored the first international goal for the country. And Morocco’s first victory in international football was seen two days later in the same event. Their victory against Libya was 5-1.

Morocco won the African Cup of Nations in 1976. He also won the African Nations Championship in 2018 and 2020. “FIFA Arab Cup” brought home in 2012. He has gold twice in Pan Arab Games and Mediterranean Games. Islamic Solidarity Games also won gold in football in 2013.

Morocco’s unique history in World Cup football:

Morocco is the first African country to qualify for the World Cup in 1970. However, the team was eliminated from the group stage. In the first match of the tournament held in Mexico, Morocco surprised everyone by scoring in the 21st minute against West Germany. The goal was scored by Mohammed Houmane Jarir. He is the first World Cup goal scorer not only of Morocco, but of the entire African continent. Although in the end, Morocco lost the match 1-2 due to lack of experience.

In the second match, Morocco lost 0-3 to Peru. But in the last match they stopped Bulgaria with a 1-1 goal.

In 1986, Morocco made it to the World Cup stage for the second time. Coincidentally, this year’s event was also held in Mexico. Morocco has made a new history this time too. As the first African team to cross the barrier of the group stage and get to the knock out. In the first two matches, Morocco stopped strong teams like Poland and England goalless. And in the last match of the group, they beat Portugal 3-1 and got their first win in the World Cup. It is the best in the group and goes to the knock out phase. Where they also clashed with West Germany. But the end was not saved. In the very last moment of the match (88 minutes), the Germans won with an incredible goal by Lothar Mathews. Despite dreaming of another incident, defeat means Morocco. However, there is no doubt that their performance has inspired other African countries.

After 1986, Morocco played on the main stage of the World Cup three more times. But could never reach the barrier of the group stage. However, in 1998, they defeated the Scottish 3-0 and got their second win in the World Cup. There was also a draw against Norway. Youssef Chippo scored a suicidal goal in that draw. He is the first African continent to score a suicide goal in the World Cup. In the end, despite getting four points, Brazil and Norway were behind them, and they were eliminated from the group stage. In the last 2018 Russia World Cup, Morocco left with two losses and a draw.

Morocco has two wins in 16 matches so far in the World Cup. Five draws and nine losses. 9 goals were scored for them and 14 against.

The best footballer in the history of Morocco:

In 1998, Mustapha Hadji was selected as the best footballer of the year in Africa. He can be named the best Moroccan ever. This midfield star has played 63 matches for the country, scoring 12 goals. Mustapha Hadji has played a maximum of six matches for Morocco in the 1994 and 1998 World Cups. Played for Deportivo de La Coruña, Sporting Lisbon, Aston Villa and Espanyol in club football. In his club career, he scored 155 goals in 518 matches. In 2011, the African Football Confederation gave him the ‘Legend Award’.

Noureddine Naybet has played the most 115 matches for Morocco. He is Morocco’s only international match centurion. He also scored 4 goals as a central defender. He served the country from 1990-2006. In club football, he played in Nantes of France, Sporting Lisbon of Portugal, La Coruna of Spain and Tottenham of England. In 1999-2000 La Coruna played a great role in winning the La Liga. He has played in six African ‘Cup of Nations’ and two World Cups.

Ahmed Faras owns the most international goals for Morocco. He scored 36 international goals in 94 matches. He played in the national team from 1966-1979. In 1976, he won the African Cup of Nations and the Pan Arab Games for the country. Selected as the best player of the African Nations Cup. Played in 1970 World Cup.

Road to Qatar:

Morocco did not have to undergo any major tests to get the permit for the World Cup in Qatar. However, they did not meet any established African power. They lost to Guinea-Bissau, Guinea and Sudan twice in the group stage. In other words, Morocco has entered the play-offs by winning 6 matches. Morocco topped Group I with 18 points. Scored 20 goals. Guinea-Bissau, the second team in the group, has 6 points and 5 goals. That explains the difference between Morocco and the other teams in the group.

In the play-offs, however, Morocco ended the first match 1-1 against Congo. But in the second match, they entered the World Cup with a 4-1 victory in their own field.

Ayoub El Kaabi cored five goals and Ryan Mai scored four goals in the qualifiers.

Recent Performance:

Morocco participated in the African Cup of Nations at the beginning of this year. But Mohamed Salah was eliminated from the quarter-finals after losing to Egypt. In 2022, Morocco participated in 12 matches and won seven. Lost to the United States and Egypt. The remaining three matches were draws.

In September, Morocco played friendly matches against two Latin rivals, Chile and Paraguay. Chile beat 2-0. And the match against Paraguay was a goalless draw.

The overall performance of the year is telling, apart from Morocco’s success against mediocre teams. But whenever the game is against a relatively strong and dynamic team, they are no longer cool. The defeats against America and Egypt prove that. However, the victory against Chile deserves praise.

The Star in the current team:

The biggest star of the Moroccan team is Achraf Hakimi. Although he played in the right back position, he was distinguished for his aggressive mentality. Also plays a role in center back or midfield. Assists the team in developing attacks or scoring goals. He was in the Morocco team in the 2018 World Cup. Played two African Cup of Nations. His number of goals in 53 matches for the country is 8.

In 2018 and 2019, Hakimi was selected as the best emerging footballer of the continent. In the last two seasons, he won the recognition of the best Moroccan footballer who played abroad. Now playing for Real Madrid in PSG. Played for Inter Milan and Borussia Dortmund. He has 28 goals in 223 matches in club football. He also scored two goals in the qualifying round of the World Cup. He has won seven trophies in his career including the Champions League in Real’s jersey.

Noussair Mazraoui who can play in both right and left, defensive positions. The 24-year-old star has 2 goals in 14 matches in the country’s jersey. Professional career started at Ajax in Holland. In the 2022-23 season, he joined one of the best clubs in Europe, Bayern Munich. He is regularly playing in the new team and has played 17 matches till October. He should be watched as the future star of Morocco.

The captain of the team, Romain Saiss, is going to Qatar with the most experience of playing 65 matches in the current squad.

Chelsea forward Hakim Ziyech has scored 17 goals in 42 matches for the country. In addition, another forward Youssef En-Nesyri played in Sevilla. His number of goals in the Moroccan jersey is 14.

Drama with coach:

Morocco suddenly sacked Vahid Halilhodžić from the position of coach in mid-August. His removal was quite controversial. In the middle of last year, the coach alleged that Ziach did not want to play in the friendly match, giving the excuse of a fake injury. He was later dropped from the African Nations Cup team. Angered by this, the Chelsea midfielder announced that he would no longer play for Morocco. The Moroccan Federation was angry about this. Halilhodžić lost the Japan job in 2018 and the Ivory Coast job in 2010. That too before the World Cup.

Walid Regragui will be the head coach of Morocco in the World Cup. This 47-year-old coach has also played 45 matches for the country. Under Waleed, Morocco played against Chile and Paraguay in September. In both matches, the team played in 4-1-4-1 formation. His best XI in the World Cup too- Yassine Bounou (goalkeeper), Romain Saiss, Nayef Aguerd, Noussair Mazraoui, Ashraf Hakimi, Sofyan Amrabat, Amine Harit, Azzedine Ounahi, Sofiane Boufal, Hakim Ziyech, Youssef En-Nesyri.

Target for World Cup:

Morocco’s biggest challenge will be to qualify for the group stage in the World Cup in Qatar. In the ‘F’ group there are Belgium, which is second in the FIFA ranking, and last year’s finalist, Croatia. Besides, Canada is in form in the CONCACAF region. Who can be the dark-horse of the World Cup. So Morocco’s challenge will not be easy for sure.

Morocco’s first match is against Croatia on November 23. Who met in a tournament in Egypt in 1996. The Croats had to go to a tiebreaker to win the match.

Morocco’s match against Belgium on November 27. The two teams met in the 1994 World Cup. Belgium won the match 1-0. Apart from this, the two teams played two more friendly matches. In 2008, the African Lions beat the European Red Devils 4-1.

Morocco will face Canada on December 1, with whom the African nation has never lost in the East Three. Won two matches. Morocco last beat Canada 4-0 in 2016. All three matches of the two teams were equal!

Morocco’s Squad:

The 26 players that Morocco will play in the World Cup –

Goalkeepers – Yassine Bounou, Munir Mohamedi, Ahmed Reda Tagnaouti

Defence- Yahia Attiyat Allah, Achraf Dari, Ashraf Hakimi, Noussair Mazraoui, Sammy Mai, Romain Siss, Jawad El Yamiq

Midfield- Selim Amallah, Sofyan Amrabat, Younes Belhanda, Ilias Chair, Amine Harit, Yahya Jabrane, Azzedine Ounahi, Abdelhamid Sabir

Forward- Zakaria Aboukhlal, Sofiane Boufal, Walid Cheddira, Abde Ezzalzouli, Munir El Haddadi, Ryan Mai, Youssef En-Nesyri, Hakim Ziyech


Morocco is credited with bringing African football to the World Cup stage. However, since 1986, the country has not been able to reach the group stage. They are in a strong group in the World Cup in Qatar. Because there is no such thing as a weak opponent in the World Cup. And Morocco’s current squad also has several European League stars. With whom one can expect great things.