Morocco

Associated Press

Morocco skirts past Namibia on late own-goal

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Morocco started its Africa Cup of Nations journey noticeably flat, but still managed to snatch all three points late as a heartbreaking Itamunua Keimuine own-goal in the 89th minute saw Morocco top Namibia 1-0.

Namibia was in a defensive shell the entire match, and they succeeded in frustrating Hakim Ziyech and company. Morocco held 67% of possession and ripped off 17 shots, but could only put five of them on target in the blistering Egypt heat. Morocco head coach Herve Renard made the questionable decision not to start Sofiane Boufal, but brought him on for the final half-hour in the hope of electrifying the favorites.

It had little effect and Namibia remained defensively solid, until conceding in the final ticks off the clock. A Ziyech free-kick from a great distance out swung in, and having evaded every attacker and defender, it fell to the last Namibian defender on the line Itamunua Keimuine who accidentally headed it into his own net.

The final result was probably deserved, as Monaco had far more attacking intent, out-passing Namibia 491 to 182 and holding them without a shot on target. Still, Renard will hope the chances come in a more consistent fashion next time out as Morocco has tough games against South Africa and Ivory Coast remaining in Group D play.

African Champions League Final second leg to be replayed

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Wydad Casablanca is going to get its second chance to win a second leg, while Esperance Tunis has to return its trophy and medals.

Moroccan side Wydad left the pitch in the second leg of the African Champions League final after a goal it scored was disallowed.

[ MORE: Premier League VAR details ]

That gave Esperance the title by forfeit, the leg still tied at 1 from the first leg.

Wydad scored a goal and the teams were not informed that VAR was unavailable due to a technical malfunction. Incredulous that the review was not taking place, Wydad left the field after an hour-long protest.

The first leg didn’t go well either, with a referee suspended for incorrectly judging a pair of VAR requests.

So, yes, this has all been handled very poorly.

In any event, the Club World Cup field will not be decided until the eve of the 2019-20 club season, as the second leg won’t be replayed until after the Africa Cup of Nations. That runs from June 21 until July 19.

Spain wants 2030 World Cup bid with Morocco and Portugal

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MADRID (AP) Spain wants Morocco to join a three-country bid with Portugal to host the 2030 World Cup.

A government spokeswoman says Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez conveyed the offer to Moroccan counterpart Saad Eddine El Othmani during a brief visit to the north African country. The spokeswoman, as is custom, spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

There was no immediate response from the government in Rabat.

According to Spanish media, a World Cup bid spanning two continents had been floated in September when Sanchez met in Madrid with FIFA President Gianni Infantino.

South American soccer leaders are already promoting a three-way centenary bid by Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay. Uruguay hosted the first World Cup in 1930. There is already European interest from England, which is exploring bidding with its neighbors.

Spain hosted the 1982 World Cup and bid with Portugal for the 2018 competition, which went to Russia.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Spain draw Morocco, win Group B in dizzying final five minutes

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Spain survived a near-disaster scenario, which could have seen them eliminated from the 2018 World Cup (pending result elsewhere), but still struggled en route to a 2-2 draw with Morocco in Kaliningrad, Russia, on Monday.

From start to finish, it was a muddled mess of a performance for Fernando Hierro’s side. And yet, rather than facing Uruguay, who clinched Group A with a 3-0 victory over Russia earlier in the day, Fernando Hierro’s side finishes top of Group B (based on goals scored) and will face the hosts in the round of 16. More importantly, they’ll (likely) avoid the likes of Brazil, France and Germany in their half of the knockout bracket.

[ SCENARIOS: Who needs what, to finish where, in final round of group games ]

Khalid Boutaib, Isco, Youssef En-Nesyri and Iago Aspas scored the goals, in that order, as Spain scraped their way to a 1W-2D-0L record in the group stage.

The scoring opened in perhaps the most unlikely way imaginable: a giveaway by Andres Iniesta, though plenty of blame could be given to Sergio Ramos as well, and an easy breakaway for Boutaib, who raced in on goal and slid the ball between David De Gea‘s legs to make it 1-0 (WATCH HERE).

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Morocco’s lead didn’t last long, though, as Iniesta atoned for his earlier error, with a little help of some silky operators wearing red. A quick passing sequence down the left side of the penalty area freed Iniesta to play the simple, but perfectly timed, ball to Isco for a close-range finish. (WATCH HERE)

 Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

The second half’s first great scoring chance came in the 55th minute, and it nearly put Spain behind again. Nordin Amrabat unleashed a powerful, right-footed strike from the corner of the penalty area, leaving De Gea completely helpless in goal, but the Watford man was denied by the 90-degree angle where the crossbar meets post. Another wake-up call for the 2010 World Cup winners, but a massive let-off in the end.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

En-Nesyri headed home the would-be winner from Faycal Fajr’s corner kick in the 81st minute, seconds after Gerard Pique was perhaps suspected of having committed a handball offense inside the penalty area.

It wasn’t the last bit of drama, though, as Aspas flicked home the equalizer in the 90th minute. He was initially ruled offside by the assistant referee, but a video review indicated he was perfectly level when the ball was crossed into the box.

VIDEO: Portugal lead Iran at HT; Spain 1-1 Morocco

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We’re through the first 45 minutes of Monday’s Group B finales at the 2018 World Cup, and things are happening. A quick rundown…

[ SCENARIOS: Who needs what, to finish where, in final round of group games ]

Andres Iniesta and Sergio Ramos combined to commit a disastrous gaffe at midfield, resulting in a goal for Khalid Boutaib in the 14th minute. At this point, Spain would have finished second, behind Portugal, and headed to the far more difficult side of the knockout bracket.

Five minutes later, it was Iniesta who, with a little help from some slightly lesser geniuses, unlocked the Moroccan defense to set up Isco for an emphatic finish. La Furia Roja moved back to the top of the group, on goals scored.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

In the afternoon’s other game, Portugal and Iran appeared destined for a 0-0 scoreline at halftime, until Ricardo Quaresma unleashed a stunning, outside-of-the-foot curler from outside the box to beat the goalkeeper and put Portugal ahead — both on the day, and in the table. As things currently stand, Portugal would win the group and Spain would finish second.