Africa Cup of Nations 2019: Morocco vs Namibia - Morocco Team News, Predicted XI and more

Morocco at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
Morocco at the FIFA World Cup in Russia

Morocco have suffered back-to-back defeats during their friendlies against Gambia and Zambia respectively, ahead of the upcoming 2019 Africa Cup of Nations tournament.

The Atlas Lions succumbed to a 1-0 defeat against Gambia earlier this month while suffering a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Zambia despite restoring parity twice during the game last week.

As such, Morocco are not in the peak of their powers heading into the prestigious continental showpiece event in Egypt this weekend.

Herve Renard's men are pitted alongside Namibia, Ivory Coast and South Africa in Group D of the competition and will be eyeing securing a better finish than the quarter-final exit they suffered against eventual runners-up Egypt during the previous edition in Gabon back in 2017.

However, the North African side cannot afford to rest on their laurels in Group D, especially considering their worrying form in the friendlies leading up to the tournament.

Morocco have opted against including the likes of Amine Harit of Schalke, Ayoub El Kaabi of Hebei China Fortune and Abdelkarim Baadi of Hassaina Agadir in their final squad for the Africa Cup of Nations.

And it remains to be seen whether the Atlas Lions can draw enough inspiration from their promising display at the FIFA World Cup in Russia last summer to clinch only the second Africa Cup of Nations title in their history.

Team News

Morocco will begin their 2019 AFCON campaign against Namibia at the Al-Salam Stadium in Cairo on June 23 and will have the entire squad to choose from at their disposal.

Injuries: None

Suspensions: None

Predicted XI

Herve Renard has deployed several formations with Morocco over the course of the last 12 months. The Atlas Lions lined up in a 4-2-3-1 style against Iran and Portugal at the World Cup last summer but opted for a 4-1-4-1 approach during their fighting draw against Spain in the final game.

Morocco are also suited to play three at the back and have excelled in the past while lining up in a 3-4-3 formation. However, Renard has experimented by using a 4-4-2 shape during their defeats in the two recent friendlies against Gambia and Zambia. Due to the outcome of the recent games, it remains unlikely that Renard would prefer to experiment again during the opening game against Namibia on Saturday.

Munir El Kajoui and Yassine Bounou are the main contenders for the goalkeeper role and the former could be given the nod due to his experience at this level.

Medhi Benatia and Romain Saiss could partner each other in the heart of the defence with support from Achraf Hakimi and Noussair Mazraoui on either side.

Karim El Ahmadi might be the choice to form the base of a midfield triumvirate consisting of Mbark Boussoufa and Younes Belhanda in a slightly attacking role.

Hakim Ziyech remains a guaranteed starter in the side and will provide enough support from the flanks to Khalid Boutaib as striker, alongside Nordin Amrabat on the opposite flank.

Morocco (4-3-3): Munir; Noussair Mazraoui, Medhi Benatia, Romain Saiss, Achraf Hakimi; Karim El Ahmadi, Mbark Boussoufa, Younes Belhanda; Hakim Ziyech, Khalid Boutaib, Nordin Amrabat.

Morocco Predicted XI
Morocco Predicted XI

Key Players

Hakim Ziyech
Hakim Ziyech

#1 Hakim Ziyech

The Ajax winger has enjoyed a spectacular domestic season with the Dutch champions, as he guided them to a domestic double and memorable run that ended in the semi-finals of the Champions League.

Ziyech was the Atlas Lions' leading goal-scorer during the qualifiers for the 2019 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations and has maintained his impressive form in national team colours even during the recent friendly defeats to Gambia and Zambia.

The 26-year-old will be integral to Herve Renard's plans in Egypt this month and will be eyeing acting as the creator and scorer of goals for Morocco to help them enjoy a good run in the tournament.

Ziyech finished the recently concluded campaign at Ajax with 21 goals and 24 assists in all competitions for the Dutch club.

#2 Medhi Benatia

Medhi Benatia
Medhi Benatia

The former Juventus defender will captain the Morocco side at the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt and continues to remain an integral member of the national team, despite securing a move away from Europe with Al Duhail in Qatar recently.

Medhi Benatia is one of the most experienced campaigners within the Atlas Lions' squad for the continental competition and will have the role of playing the mentor in the group and leading as an example on the pitch.

The 32-year-old will also have the added responsibility of marshaling his troops at the back that includes exciting but relatively young defenders in Achraf Hakimi, Romain Saiss, who is actually a midfielder by trade, and Noussair Mazraoui.

As such, Benatia's influence on the group will be an invaluable asset to Morocco, who are not exactly brimming with confidence heading into their opening game this weekend.

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Edited by Raunak J
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