After a 20-year hiatus between 1998 and 2018, Morocco are back at the World Cup for a second consecutive tournament. Their 2018 appearance proved to be a bit of an anti-climax for the Atlas Lions, as they were the first team knocked out of the tournament, departing six days after the tournament started. By the time they bravely drew 2-2 with Spain in their third game, it was a case of little too late.
According to ELO ratings, Group F is the third toughest group at the tournament, behind Group G and Group E. Belgium are the favourites to progress, with Croatia tipped for second, leaving Morocco and Canada behind. At Opta, their predictor only gives Morocco a 30% chance of progressing, with Croatia twice as likely (63%). That said, FiveThirtyEight only gives Croatia a 54% chance of progressing, just ahead of Morocco’s 46%.
Ligue 1 (5 players), Serie A and the English Premier League (both 4 players) have contributed half the Moroccan squad, who are well known for attracting many foreign-born players. 25% of the squad were part of the 2018 disappointment and will be hoping to right the wrongs of four years ago.
The majority of their players are in the 24 – 29 year range, with a few experienced players none of whom are above 33. In Bilal El Khannous, they also have the 5th youngest player at the tournament, and it will be interesting to see if he gets to play.
How Can They Progress?
Morocco will likely need to beat one of Belgium or Croatia in their first two games to stand a chance of progressing. Otherwise, they risk a repeat of their 2018 performance (when they were knocked out after 2 games). The Croatia game is the better hope, with Bet.co.za offering 3.90 for the win.
Key Game: Croatia
We’ve also picked the Croatia clash as the key game (their 2nd encounter). A win here will make them favourites to go through given that lowly Canada are the final game while two European giants also clash at the same time on 1 December. Croatia are slight favourites (FiveThirthyEight), but you have to upset the odds at some point if you want to go deep in a tournament.
Achraf Hakimi is probably the highest-profile player in the side, and his attacking instincts are very valuable for a defender. But we’re going with Hakim Ziyech as the player whose performances will be closely linked to the success or failure of the team. He has had a mixed spell at Chelsea, with 14 goals in almost 100 appearances. He has scored more goals for Morocco (17) in half as many games and remains the talisman for his national side. Having missed the Africa Cup of Nations, this is likely his final World Cup tournament, and he’ll want to make sure his name is remembered for a long time.