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Football | Afcon

Afcon finalists Morocco



Factbox on African Nations Cup finalists Morocco ahead of this year's tournament in South Africa from Jan 19 to Feb 10:

Previous appearances in African Nations Cup finals: 14

Best performance: Winners in 1976; Runners-up in 2004

Fifa world ranking Dec 2012: 74th

Coach: Rachid Taoussi was appointed in September to replace former Belgian international Eric Gerets after Morocco had lost in Mozambique in the first leg of their decisive qualifying tie. Taoussi, 56, engineered a 4-0 turnaround in October's second leg to qualify the side for the final and has since made dramatic changes to the squad. In 2011 Taoussi took the unfashionable Maghreb Fes to the African Confederation Cup title.

Key players:

Younes Belhanda (Montpellier). Age: 22. Position: Midfielder French-born playmaker who was chosen as the best young player in Ligue 1 last season after playing a significant role in unfashionable Montpellier's winning of a first-ever championship. Chose to play for Morocco in late 2010 after featuring for France at junior level.

Mehdi Benatia (Udinese). Age: 25 Pos: Defender Former French junior international who had trials at both Chelsea and Manchester United and signed for Olympique Marseille but never made the grade. He signed as a virtual unknown for Udinese, penning a five year contract in early 2010. He will captain the team in South Africa.

Youssef El Arabi (Granada). Age: 25 Pos: Forward. A 4.5-million Euro ($5.89 million) signing by Spanish club Granada in July after spending a season in Saudi Arabia. Originally from Caen, where he made his Ligue 1 debut in 2008, and spent three seasons before a surprise move to the Middle East. Debuted for Morocco in 2010, now in his second finals.

Prospects: Morocco were among the favourites at the 2012 finals in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon but crashed spectacularly after losing their first two games of the tournament. They had a squad full of talented players but never got all the individual flair to gel together. A coaching change has seen potential match winners like Mbark Boussoufa, Mehdi Carcela and Adel Taarabt left out in something of a surprise but Morocco are seeking to play to a plan rather than just winging it.



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