Morocco made historical past by turning into the primary African aspect to succeed in the World Cup semi-finals and there are many explanation why the Atlas Lions are to not be underestimated.
Morocco overcame Portugal 1-0 to arrange a semi-final in opposition to both England or France on Wednesday, having already defeated Belgium, Canada and Spain in Qatar.
Nevertheless, Walid Regragui’s crew will head into their subsequent sport as soon as once more as underdogs.
“Don’t take them evenly,” stated Graeme Souness on ITV at full-time. “They won’t be a unique Morocco subsequent time, they may play the very same manner.”
And there are quite a few explanation why it will be an enormous mistake to jot down Morocco off.
Success constructed on defensive prowess
Morocco’s run to the final 4 has been constructed on rock-solid foundations. Remarkably, they’ve solely conceded as soon as in 5 video games up to now. And even that got here within the type of a Nayef Aguerd own-goal.
No opposition participant has managed to get one previous goalkeeper Yassine Bounou – identified merely as Bono. Spain could not even beat him in a penalty shootout, lacking all three of their efforts following the goalless draw, with two of them saved.
The 31-year-old is probably a powerful contender for the Golden Glove award, however he has been helped by the gamers in entrance of him. Extremely, Morocco have restricted their opponents to simply 9 pictures heading in the right direction throughout 5 video games up to now.
It’s all the extra spectacular when you think about how a lot of the ball their opponents have had.
Morocco have had simply 31.6 per cent possession up to now – the second-lowest common of all 32 groups to have featured within the match – and but they not often even look like conceding.
Walid Regragui has solely been in cost for 3 months, however by some means his aspect are supremely nicely organised, expertly preserving their opponents at arm’s size due largely to an excellent defensive form.
Their job is more likely to be tougher within the semi-finals, with Romain Saiss seemingly set to affix first-choice centre-back associate Aguerd on the sidelines having sustained an harm within the second half of the win over Portugal.
However Morocco seemed no weaker with Jawad El Yamiq drafted into the beginning line-up – or when Achraf Dari, ostensibly their fifth alternative within the place, needed to come on rather than Saiss.
Harry Kane or Kylian Mbappe would possibly fancy their possibilities in opposition to that makeshift pairing, assuming Aguerd and Saiss don’t miraculously get better in time, however they’re shielded by the formidable Sofyan Amrabat, who has been excellent in holding midfield, they usually even have a world-class proper again in Achraf Hakimi.
Over at left again, first-choice Noussair Mazraoui, of Bayern Munich, was absent in opposition to Portugal, which means Yahya Attiat-Allah needed to step in. Once more, although, it made little distinction.
Morocco’s defensive prowess is right down to the collective slightly than any particular person.
Courageous and good in possession
It could be a grave error to have a look at Morocco’s possession numbers and assume they’re a poor footballing aspect. Quite the opposite, they’re technically wonderful and impressive on the ball. They’ve proven it all through the match.
It was evident in the way in which they invited Spain to press them excessive up the pitch within the final 16, with Regragui’s aspect enjoying out from the again with the sort of boldness you’ll often affiliate with Spain themselves.
It labored, too. Morocco reduce by means of Luis Enrique’s aspect on a number of events after Bono opted to go quick. Then, as soon as the press was crushed, they flew ahead at velocity, benefiting from any numerical benefits that they had gained by drawing Spain upfield.
Morocco didn’t get the aim their efficiency deserved in opposition to Spain, however they lured Portugal into the identical entice.
It nearly yielded a aim when Selim Amallah blazed over following a slick transfer which began with Achraf Hakimi close to Morocco’s aim line, however Morocco did not have to attend lengthy for the strategy to repay.
In truth, their aim arrived in comparable circumstances solely seven minutes later, Youssef En-Nesyri heading dwelling Attiat-Allah’s left-wing cross following a sequence of passes lasting nicely over a minute and involving greater than half the Morocco crew.
Morocco might have solely scored 3 times in 5 video games up to now in Qatar – excluding their penalty shootout – however that whole ought to be thought of misleading. They’ve proven they’ll harm the highest groups – and do it in fashion too.
Amrabat, Ounahi, Boufal supply particular person excellence
Morocco’s power lies within the collective, however they don’t seem to be gentle on particular person expertise both.
Fiorentina midfielder Sofyan Amrabat has been excellent within the centre of the park, placing out fires in entrance of his again line after which beginning counter-attacks, impressing particularly in his aspect’s win over Spain.
Current reviews recommend Liverpool are monitoring the 26-year-old with a view to presumably signing him in January.
To the fitting of Amrabat in Morocco’s midfield three, there may be an arguably much more thrilling participant. Azzedine Ounahi was enjoying in France’s third tier solely 18 months in the past, however he has been a revelation in Qatar.
Luis Enrique actually thought so. “Madre mía, the place did this child come from?” stated the now former Spain boss after Ounahi helped dump La Roja out of the competitors. “He can actually play,” he added.
The 22-year-old was wonderful in that sport, exhibiting his trade in addition to his technical high quality as he lined a complete of 14.7km earlier than his 119th-minute withdrawal – probably the most by any participant on both aspect.
He was equally spectacular in opposition to Portugal, with most of Morocco’s greatest attacking moments going by means of him, simply as they did in opposition to Spain. He was one thing of an unknown going into the match, however not any extra.
Ounahi performs his membership soccer for Angers in Ligue 1 and so does winger Sofiane Boufal, one other excellent performer for Morocco in the course of the match.
The previous Southampton star has impressed in Morocco’s path to the semi-finals together with his eye-catching and elusive dribbling, which has at instances helped relieve the strain on his aspect – the truth is, his 2.4 dribbles on common per sport are greater than any of his team-mates, whereas solely France ahead Kylian Mbappe is the one participant nonetheless energetic within the match that has dribbled extra instances per match.
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