Team-by-team guide: 2022 Morocco World Cup preview

To prepare you for the tournament, The18 has launched team-by-team previews for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Here's the Morocco World Cup 2022 preview. The Atlas Lions will play in Group F against Belgium, Canada and Croatia.

Morocco World Cup 2022 preview

World Cup appearances: 6th

Best Finish: Round of 16 (1986)  

How They Got Here: Morocco had a strong, undefeated group performance in the CAF qualifiers (6-0-0), scoring 20 goals and conceding just one. In the continental playoff, they crushed DR Congo 5-2 on aggregate to secure their spot in Qatar. 

Coach: Walid Regragui (Morocco)

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Despite Vahid Halilhodžić being the coach responsible for the World Cup qualification, the Moroccan soccer federation decided to fire the Bosnian three months before the tournament. The reason? Differences with star Hakim Ziyech who was exiled from the team for "unacceptable" behavior. According to Halilhodžić, Ziyech refused to play a friendly game for Morocco under the pretext he was injured.

Since Regragui was hired, Ziyech is now back in the squad. 

Strongest XI: (4-3-3) Yassine Bounou (Bono); Achraf Hakimi, Achraf Dari, Romain Saïss, Noussair Mazraoui; Azzedine Ounahi, Sofyan Amrabat, Selim Amallah; Hakim Ziyech, Youssef En-Nesyri, Sofiane Boufal 

Injuries: Tarik Tissoudali (cruciate ligament, out), Nayef Aguerd (ankle, maybe)

What's To Like: The wings! Morocco has a lot of young, exciting talent running on the sides. Achraf Hakimi (23 years old) and Noussair Mazraoui (24) are phenomenal fullbacks. I mean, elite level. And the fact both are starters in colossi like PSG and Bayern Munich proves their quality. 

But that is not all. Hakimi and Mazraoui's wing partners also provide a hair-raising feeling. OK, Sofiane Boufal is not top-top level, but his experience adds sharpness to the Moroccan left attack. On the right, however, the tandem Hakimi-Ziyech is so good and promising that it seems unfair to the rest of the teams. 

Finally, between Hakimi and Ziyech, you might see Azzedine Ounahi roaming in the right-midfield. He is not as fast, but when he has the ball attached to his feet could sting nasty: excellent dribbling, great vision for passes into the space and more than decent long-range shots. 

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What's Not To Like: Whatever is going on in the center positions. 

In the backline, Romain Saïss is usually accompanied by Nayef Aguerd. However, the West Ham United CB is returning from ankle surgery and it is unclear how his fitness will be during the World Cup. If he can't make it, Achraf Dari will fill the spot. 

The three of them are good, solid defenders and the fact they only allowed one goal in the CAF qualifiers could be an argument to prove their skills. However, that strength didn't show up during the last AFCON – they conceded five goals in six matches – and there are reasonable doubts about them being world-class defenders. 

Fans and experts also worry about how Morocco's midfield will fare on soccer's biggest stage. Sofyan Amrabat has miles of experience on his boot and is an excellent marshall downtown, but is he good enough to stop Belgian Kevin de Bruyne and Croatian Luka Modric? The answer seems to be no. 

Finally, Morocco has a striker problem. Youssef En-Nesyri used to be a fantastic goalscorer but has recently been out of form in the national team and Sevilla. Tarik Tissoudali was meant to add some spice to the position, but an ACL injury has ruled him out of the tournament. 

X-Factor: While Hakimi and Ziyech are expected to bring the fireworks, goalkeeper Bono could improve Morocco's chances thanks to his fantastic shot-stopping abilities. He was recently named the ninth-best GK in the world during the last Ballon d'Or award, and that should mean something, right?

Best Hair: Abde Ezzalzouli

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Most Likely To Fuck It All Up: Not having a dependable striker. With Tissoudali out due to an ACL injury, Morocco doesn't have a reliable goalscorer. Regragui has tried with Youssef En-Nesyri and Ryan Mmaee with no success. Fans asked for the return of Abderrazak Hamdallah in the last friendlies against Chile and Paraguay, but the Al-Ittihad player seems to be vetoed from the squad for no clear reason. 

Yeah, something like the Moroccan Chicharito Hernández. 

What Will Make This A Good World Cup: Morocco hasn't won a World Cup game since France 1998 (3-0 to Scotland), so getting that W is a good feat. However, following the expectations created around the team, the benchmark is the round of 16. 

Bonus Prediction: Bono saves a penalty.

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