2018 World Cup team preview: Morocco

AP Photo/Matt Dunham
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Getting to know Morocco: The 2026 World Cup hosts — I’M JUST KIDDING, CARLOS!!! — are better known as the Atlas Lions (great name) but have a tall task ahead of themselves in a first World Cup appearance in 20 years.

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Once an AFCON semifinal mainstay, Morocco has had tournament trouble aside from 2004 AFCON runners-up status. Getting out of the group with Spain, Portugal, and Iran would qualify as a big success for a boss who’s used to getting the most out of his teams.

For more history on Morocco, click here.

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What group are they in? B


Game schedule – Group B – Full 2018 World Cup schedule, here

Friday, June 15: Morocco v Iran, St Petersburg 11 a.m. ET
Wednesday, June 20: Portugal v Morocco, Moscow 8 a.m. ET
Monday, June 25: Spain v Morocco, Kaliningrad 2 p.m. ET


Projected lineup (4-2-3-1) – Check out the 23-man squad list in full

—– Bono —–

Hakimi — Saiss — Benatia — Mendyl

Boussoufa —- El Ahmadi

Amrabat —- Belhanda —- Ziyech

Boutaib


Star player: Mehdi Benatia – The 56-times capped captain of the squad is a rock at the back, one of the best center backs in Serie A having previously played for Bayern Munich and AS Roma amongst others.

(Photo by Steve Haag/Getty Images)

Manager: Herve Renard – It’s a first World Cup for the French boss, though he’s got a pair of Africa Cup of Nations titles (one with Zambia and the other with Ivory Coast). Renard also had success with Angola at the 2010 AFCON, and could become a big figure for a fourth African nation with an early win over Iran, a surprise draw against Portugal or Spain, and help.


Secret weapon: Hakim Ziyech – The longtime Eredivisie star is coming off a league-leading assist season (15) with Ajax and arguably the top season overall in the league. He’ll have to get past club teammate and fellow under-the-radar star Alireza Jahanbakhsh of Iran in a neat little subplot.


Prediction: It’s a tall ask to get out of the group, but if Spain puts Portugal to the knife and Morocco beats Iran on the first group match day, the CAF side can hope to stifle Portugal in Game Two and then keep goal differential in check against Spain in the finale. It’s still looking like third place at best, but there’s a path.