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Diaspora players, brilliance of local league… 5 interesting facts about Morocco’s World Cup squad

Diaspora players, brilliance of local league… 5 interesting facts about Morocco’s World Cup squad
December 11
13:57 2022

It is a fairy tale run for Morocco at the Qatar 2022 World Cup. The Atlas Lions have shattered the ceiling of African representatives at the competition to become the first African team to qualify for semi-final. 

Morocco didn’t achieve the feat with a benign list of opposition, rather they defeated three European giants — Belgium, Spain and Portugal — to accomplish the feat.

The Moroccan team is the second African country to top the group chat at the World Cup after Nigeria did in 1994.

The Moroccans have been the poster boys for a World Cup that has churned out numerous drama and upset.


Below are five interesting facts about the Moroccan team who has written itself into football history:

Power Diaspora

Morocco has been able to harness the pool of talents in its diaspora, unlike any other country in this World Cup.


Fourteen players in the squad were born outside Morocco — with players born in Spain, France, Belgium, Canada, and the Netherlands.

This allows the Atlas Lions to benefit from the efficiency of players with sophisticated football education from elite academies across the globe.

Achraf Hakimi is a product of Real Madrid’s La Fabrica, while Hakim Ziyech and Noussair Mazraoui came through the prodigious Ajax Amsterdam youth system, among several others in the team.

Brilliant products of the Moroccan league


Morocco’s Botola Lig 1 has remained one of the best football leagues in Africa in recent years. Wydad Athletic Club and RS Berkane are the current CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup holders. There’s also the ancient powerhouse of Raja Casablanca and its storied youth team systems.

At least 12 players in the squad — including Yaccine Bounou, Nayef Aguerd and Youssef En-Nesyri — had their formative years in the local league.

Walid Regragui, the team’s manager, led Wydad to their third CAF CL triumph in May.

With world-class investment in stadiums and football programmes that has seen Morocco consistently bid for some of the most significant sporting events, the local league has enjoyed prosperity, and its clubs continue to churn out great talents.


Home-based contingent

The recent success of Moroccan clubs on the continents means more chances for its local players in the national teams.


Ahmed Reda Tagnaouti, Yahia Attiyat Allah and Yahya Jabrane are members of the home-based contingent for Morocco in Qatar.

The trio was part of the Wydad AC side that conquered the continent in 2022, with Jabrane one of the leading goal scorers in the CAF CL.


Regragui’s quick magic

Nicknamed the “Moroccan Guardiola”, Walid Regragui took over the reins of the Atlas Lions in September 2022 — barely three months before the World Cup.


He took over a Moroccan squad in disarray by the actions of Vahid Halilhodzic, his processor, who ostracised a couple of top players from the team.

Regragui harmonised the team, called Ziyech back from his forced international retirement, and reproduced the tactical nous that helped him lead Wydad to the CAF CL.

The 47-year-old took the Lions’ tactical strengths to a new level. He fashioned an excellent shape for the team, which enabled them to neutralise teams.

His history as a defender also transformed Morocco’s defence into the best at the World Cup.

Stinginess at the back

One standout feature of the Lions at this World Cup is their defence. No opposition player has been able to score against them. Not even during the shootout against Spain.

The only goal conceded in Qatar was an own goal by Aguerd against Canada in the group stage.

Even with three of their regular centre-backs injured, they maintained defensive discipline and awareness at the rearguard.

Bounou has also been unbeatable between the sticks, with brilliant displays making him one of the top contenders for the FIFA Golden Glove.


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