With 27 days until the World Cup kicks off, we move onto the next team in Group B.
With Spain up against Portugal in their first match in Russia, Morocco and Iran both have a great chance of capitalising on their match up to steal a march in Group B. Even then, though, Morocco aren’t to be underestimated. They topped their CAF group with 12 points of a possible 18 and have the means to spring an upset at the World Cup.
11 goals in six games was also a commendable return, but impressively still was that they didn’t concede a goal in those matches, despite coming up against Ivory Coast and a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang led Gabon during qualifying. They are notoriously difficult to break down in part due to the resolute defensive showings of Medhi Benatia.
The Juventus centre-back and Atlas Lions captain has been in exceptional form for the Old Lady this season and is a key man in the Morocco XI. Herve Renard will be hoping to guide Morocco to the knockout stages of the World Cup for the first time since 1986 and while their group on paper is difficult to navigate, they are more than capable of upsetting the odds to secure a last-16 berth at one of Portugal, Spain or Iran’s expense.
Benatia has the necessary big game experience to keep the opposition attacks at bay having gained a WhoScored.com rating of 7.26 in Serie A this season, the second best of centre-backs to make 20 or more league appearances. Morocco will look to their defensive lynchpin to keep things tight at the back, which in turn will allow the attack to hurt opposition defences.
Morocco are a nation littered with offensive talent, with Ajax star Hakim Ziyech the star man. He gained a better WhoScored.com rating (8.21) than any other player in the Eredivisie this season, having made more key passes (142) and registered more assist (15) than any other player in the top tier of Dutch football this term.
Ziyech has been one of the Eredivisie’s most consistent performers in recent years and he’ll look to transfer his fine league form to the international stage. A strong showing will increase interest in his signature and would allow the 25-year-old to really announce himself to the watching world.
Crucially though is that if both players at either end of the pitch, along with their teammates, perform to the standards expected of them, Morocco have the means to secure a spot in the knockout stages of the World Cup. Havard’s side are not to be taken lightly next month and opponents will do so at their own risk.