FIFA Rank: 72
Coach: Rachid Taoussi
Captain: Houssine Kharja
Nickname: Lions of the Atlas
Previous AFCON finish: Round 1
As winners of the 1976 Africa Cup on Nations, Morocco have failed to
replicate that feat in the decades that have followed. They have been
involved in 14 editions of the competition, finishing in third place in
1980 and runners up in the 2004 showpiece.
Known as the 'Lions of the Atlas', Morocco's highest ever FIFA
ranking was achieved in April 1998, when they were named as the tenth
best team in world football.
They boast the record of becoming the first African nation to
progress to the second round of the FIFA World Cup, which was achieved
in the 1986 installment of the competition. Their impressive
performances on the world stage signaled a golden period for the
national team, who narrowly missed out on repeating that feat in 1998.
Their biggest win came against Saudi Arabia in September, 1961, a
13-1 victory on home soil, while their heaviest defeat was a 6-0
mauling at the hands of Hungary in Japan three years later.
Morocco were due to make their first appearance in the 1962 AFCON
before the decision was made to withdraw from the competition. They
eventually went on to make their AFCON debut in 1972 and would bow out
in the first round after losing out narrowly to Congo, who finished
second in Group B.
They have experienced mixed fortunes since their debut appearance,
winning the AFCON in 1976 and finishing in third place in 1980.
The Lions of the Atlas have twice finished in fourth place (1986,
1988). In 1998 they made it to the quarter finals, losing 2-1 to South
Africa in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
Despite arriving in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon as 'dark horses' for
the 2012 tournament, they failed to progress from a group containing
Gabon, Tunisa and Niger, finishing third, with a record of two losses
and a victory over Niger.
However, they managed to reclaim some of their former glory after
being crowned the 2012 Arab Nations Cup champions by defeating Libya on
penalties in the final after overcoming the most successful team in the
history of the tournament and record holder, Iraq, in the semifinals.
They enjoyed mixed results leading up to the 2013 AFCON with former
coach Eric Gerets sacked after a 2-0 loss away to Mozambique in the
second qualifying round first leg before the new man at the helm Rachid
Taoussi guided the Lions to a 4-0 win at home to secure qualification.
Morocco will host the next Nations Cup in 2015.
A significant number of the Morocco squad are overseas-based
players, with their players spread across France, Germany, England and
Spain. A significant amount do make their living in Morocco, with coach
Taoussi putting out teams of locally based players for a number of
Adel Taarabt (Queens Park Rangers) and Marouane Chamakh (Arsenal)
are two more well-known attacking players for Lions of the Atlas, while
skipper Houcine Kharja, who now plays for Qatar side Al-Arabi Sports
Club after many years in Italy, most recently with Fiorentina, will be
pulling the strings in midfield. Udinese star Medhi Benatia is one of
the most sought-after defenders, with the likes of Manchester United
and Tottenham credited with interest in the 25-year-old. He will be a
key men for Morocco in defence.
Goalkeepers: Khalid Askiri (Raja Casablanca), Nadir Lamyaghri (Wydad
Casablanca), Anas Zniti (Moghreb Fes)
Defenders: Abderahim Chakir (FAR Rabat), Abdelatif Nousseir (Moghreb
Fes), Issam El Adoua (Guimaraes/POR), Mehdi Benatia (Udinese/ITA),
Zakarya Bergdich (Lens/FRA), Ahmed Kantari (Brest/FRA), Abdelhamid El
Midfielders: Karim El Ahmadi (Aston Villa/ENG), Abdelaziz Barrada
(Getafe/ESP), Chahir Belghazouani (Ajaccio/FRA), Younes Belhanda
(Montpellier/FRA), Adil Hermach (Al Hilal/KSA), Kamal Chafni
(Brest/FRA), Mehdi Namli (Moghreb Tetouan)
Strikers: Nordin Amrabat (Galatasaray/TUR), Youssef El Arabi
(Granada/ESP), Oussama Assaidi (Liverpool/ENG), Abderrazak Hamdallah
(Olympique Safi), Mounir El Hamdaoui (Fiorentina/ITA), Youssef Kadioui
Watch: Younes Belhanda
Getafe’s Abdelaziz Barrada and Mehdi Benatia, the sought-after
Udinese defender with a knack for scoring goals, come into the
reckoning. However, we are going to plump for Younes Belhanda. The
midfielder was voted the UNFP Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year
2011-2012. He was one of the key players as Montpellier surprised many
by winning the French Ligue 1 title last season. Without the mercurial
Adel Taarabt who has been dropped from the final squad, the
contribution of Belhanda will be even more important if Morocco are to
progress in the competition. Look out for his trademark mohawk as he
struts his stuff in the centre of the park. The 22-year-old will be
tasked with supplying the ammunition to the strikers.
Rising Star: Oussama Assaidi
Oussama Assaidi started his career as a 17-year-old at Eredivisie
side Almere City and has since represented De Graafschap where he
played for just one season before moving to Heerenveen. It was here
that he established himself as one for the future with some assured
displays, particularly in wins against Willem II and then champions FC
Twente - a game in which he scored the first hat-trick of his career as
well as providing two assists and winning a penalty in a 6-2 victory.
The youngster earned a move to Premier League side Liverpool in August
2012, but has yet to establish himself as a regular in the Reds first
team. A good AFCON 2013 will surely put him firmly in the Premier
League sides’ first-team plans for the remainder of the season.
Sorely Missed: Adel Taarabt
Adel Taarabt is a footballer with the ability to wow and frustrate
in equal measure. The Queens Park Rangers attacker would have been
hoping to use AFCON 2013 to finally showcase his full potential.
Perhaps it was his inconsistency, or maybe his maverick tendencies,
that led to his being dropped from Morocco’s 24-man provisional AFCON
squad. He has spoken of his desire to play at the very top - Barcelona
and Real Madrid just two of the clubs he has previously mentioned. A
good showing at this year's African showpiece would certainly have gone
a long way to helping him get there.
ROAD TO FINALS
Morocco, who failed to progress beyond round one from their 2012
Africa Cup of Nations campaign, qualified for the 2013 edition with a
4-2 aggregate win over Mozambique.
By virtue of having played at AFCON 2012, they were rewarded with a
bye to the second round of qualification where they overturned a 2-0
loss in Maputo by recording a resounding 4-0 victory in Marrakech.
Daniel Almiro Lobo, better known as Miro, got on the scoresheet in
the 75th minute of their first leg with Mamelodi Sundowns' Elias Gaspar
"Domingues" Pelembe securing the win with his stoppage time effort.
But there was no stopping the Lions of the Atlas on their home patch
where Abdelaziz Barrada opened the scoring after 39 minutes in a
tightly contested first half before goals from Houssine Kharja (64
pen), Youssef El-Arabi (85) and Nordin Amrabat, in the fourth minute of
extra time, rounded off a convincing win.
Second round, first leg
Mozambique 2-0 Morocco
Second round, second leg
Morocco 4-0 Mozambique
things you never knew about Morocco
1. The word tangerine, which is what the rest of the world calls
Naartjies, comes from the name of the Moroccan city Tangier.
2. QPR’s Moroccan winger Adel Taarabt was so incensed at being
substituted at half-time of his side’s 6-0 mauling by Fulham, that he
left the stadium and caught a bus home. The Mirror reported: “Fans were
stunned to see the temperamental forward, still dressed in a club
tracksuit, waiting at a bus stop near the ground before the game had
3. Arsenal striker Marouane Chamakh is more than just a footballer.
He has a degree in accounting and he plays an active role in politics.
In Morocco's 2010 regional elections he was listed as a candidate for
the Democratic Movement Political Party.
4. The University of Karueein is said to be the oldest university in
the world. It was founded in 859 A.D. in Fez.
5. Morocco was the first country to recognize the independence of
the U.S. in 1777.
6. Morocco’s most capped player is Noureddine Naybet the former
Spurs defender. In 1999 Naybet was on the brink of a move to Manchester
United only for things fall through after he failed a medical. In the
end United signed Mikaël Silvestre instead.
7. The Moroccan national football team is known as the Atlas Lions.
8. Morocco is the last monarchy in northern Africa. There is a
partially elected National Assembly, but King Mohammed VI holds real
9. Former Moroccan international Mustapha Hadji was named CAF
African Player of the Year in 1998 following his outstanding
performances for The Atlas Lions at the World Cup. He is the only
Moroccan player to have won the award.
10. Morocco was the first African team to win a group at the World
Cup. They did this in 1986, finishing ahead of Portugal, Poland, and
England. They were also the first African team to make it to second
round where they lost narrowly, 1-0, to eventual runners-up West
Germany in 1986.