May 21, 2018 / 2:46 PM / a year ago

Soccer: Morocco World Cup factbox

(Reuters) - Factbox on the Morocco national team ahead of the 2018 World Cup:

Soccer Football - Turkish Super League - Fenerbahce S.K vs Galatasaray - Sukru Saracoglu Stadium, Istanbul, Turkey - March 17, 2018 Galatasaray's Younes Belhanda in action with Fenerbahce's Souza and Mehmet Topal REUTERS/Murad Sezer

FIFA ranking: 42 (till June 7)

Previous tournaments:

Morocco are appearing in their fifth World Cup finals, but their first since the 1998 edition in France. They were only the second African country to play at the finals, picking up a first point at the 1970 tournament in Mexico and then in 1986 becoming the first African country to get past the opening round when they topped a group ahead of England, Poland and Portugal. They were narrowly beaten by West Germany in the last 16.


Herve Renard: Just over a decade ago, Renard was running an office cleaning business and dreaming of a way into the game. He took up a post as assistant to Claude Le Roy, the much-travelled Frenchman who has handled numerous different African national teams, and has not looked back since. Renard, who turns 50 this year, took Zambia to the 2012 African Nations Cup title and repeated the feat with the Ivory Coast three years later. Regarded as having a firm disciplinary hand but also allowing free-flowing football, Renard’s success in Africa has seen him twice offered jobs in Ligue 1 but his tenures at Sochaux and Lille proved brief.

Key players:

Younes Belhanda: A graduate of Montpellier’s prodigious youth system, the crafty midfielder helped the unfashionable club to win their first Ligue 1 title in 2012 and was named France’s best footballer at the same time. The success led to a lucrative move to Dynamo Kiev, where he slipped somewhat from view, but he went to Galatasaray on a four-year deal last July and the 28-year-old is again proving his worth.

Mehdi Benatia: French-born centre-back whose career looked stuck in Ligue 2 before he moved to Italy and made a quick impression with Udinese, his fortunes surging as he was signed by Roma, Bayern Munich and then Juventus. The 31-year-old won two Bundesliga titles at Bayern and now two in a row with Juventus.

Karim El Ahmadi: The 33-year-old defensive midfielder is likely to call time on his international career at the end of the World Cup. He captained Feyenoord to their first league title in 18 years last season and at the end of the year was voted best player in the Dutch league.

Form guide:

Morocco beat Serbia and Uzbekistan in warm-up friendlies in March and their home-based national team, made up of players from their local league, won the African Nations Championship which the country hosted in January.

How they qualified:

Morocco did not concede a goal in finishing top of Group C in the African preliminaries, four points clear of second-placed Ivory Coast, who had been to the three previous World Cups.


Morocco have been handed a tough draw after being grouped with Portugal, Spain and Iran. They must get their Group B campaign off to a winning start against Iran on June 15 in St Petersburg and then hope for results against the reigning European champions and 2010 World Cup winners.

Compiled By Mark Gleeson; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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