Following a win over the Democratic Republic of Congo in the third round of the CAF World Cup Qualifying, Morocco secured its place in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Drawn into Group F that also includes Belgium, Croatia and Canada, Morocco won’t have the easiest path out of the group stage. However, the Moroccan National Team can still make it past the first round because of these five reasons.
One of Strongest African Teams
With success in recent tournaments, Morocco is currently one of the strongest teams in Africa. According to the latest FIFA World Team rankings, Morocco is the second-best team in Africa, ranked 22 behind Senegal at 18. Morocco has won the African Nations Championship two years in a row, downing Mali 2-0 in the 2020 final to win the most recent tournament, finishing the 2020 African Nations Championship with a win margin of 15-3. The national team also had a good run in the 2020 Africa Cup of Nations competition, finishing 4W-2D-0L in the qualifiers, making it past the group stage and Round of 16 before falling to Egypt 2-1 after extra time in the quarterfinals. Furthermore, Morocco had a strong World Cup qualifying run. As one of the top teams in Africa, Morocco will want to continue their recent successes with a strong showing in the first round of the World Cup 2022.
Manager Vahid Halilhodzic
The Moroccan National Team got a new manager in Vahid Halilhodzic in August 2019 following the resignation of Herve Renard. Halilhodzic spent 17 years playing before beginning a 29-year coaching career. Before taking over as Morocco’s manager, Halilhodzic managed multiple club teams as well as nations. He took Ivory Coast, Algeria and Japan to the World Cup, leading Algeria to their best showing with a Round of 16 appearance. Since taking over for Morocco, Halilhodzic has led the team to a 23-1-9 record. With Halilhodzic offering plenty of experience both playing and coaching, Morocco should be able to put up a good fight in the group stage.
Good Against Strong Teams
The 2022 World Cup is the second tournament in a row for Morocco after years away. Although the National Team fell in the group stage in 2018, Morocco didn’t go easily, putting up a good fight before being eliminated. Morocco took on Iran in its first game, falling 1-0 after an own goal in the 95th minute. Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal were up next for Morocco, with Ronaldo scoring off a header for Portugal to win 1-0. Morocco outplayed both teams, though still fell. The team’s time did come, however, against Spain, when Morocco held the previous champion to a 2-2 draw. With Morocco showing it can hang tough against some higher ranked teams, it will want to prove itself in the group stage of the 2022 World Cup.
Morocco had a strong qualifying tournament to grab its spot at the World Cup. In the second round of the CAF World Cup Qualifying, the Moroccan National Team finished first in their group, ending the round with a record of 6-0-0 to get 18 points. Morocco had the highest point differential of all teams in its group at 19, scoring 20 points and allowing one. The National Team had five clean sheets in the second round. Morocco then took on the Democratic Republic of Congo in the playoffs, with the two coming to a 1-1 draw before Morocco defeated DR Congo 4-1 four days later to grab its spot in Qatar. An undefeated record and a good qualifying tournament gives Morocco a positive boost heading into the group stage of the World Cup.
Although Morocco plays in the African Cup of Nations, the National Team fields plenty of players from the European leagues. Morocco currently has three players from Sevilla on its squad, led by forward Youssef En-Nesyri, who leads the team with 12 goals. Goalkeeper and vice captain Yassine Bounou and forward Munir El Haddadi are also on Sevilla’s roster. Defender Achraf Hakimi hails from Paris St. Germain and causes problems in the back with eight goals while forward Ayoub El Kaabi poses a threat up front. El Kaabi is part of Hatayspor in Turkey, where goalkeeper Munir El Kajoui also plays. Morocco’s captain, defender Romain Saiss, brings experience from Wolverhamption, and has 63 caps, and defender Noussair Mazraoui brings European experience as well, playing with Bayern Munich after time with Ajax. Morocco’s roster experience in Europe should prove to be useful against two strong European teams in Belgium and Croatia.