Time for Moroccan feast

Morocco are one of those teams you always think will be there or thereabouts when the honours at Afcon are being dished out.


Perhaps its style over substance as like Nigeria there are not many ticks in the winners column.

The Atlas Lions have not won the Africa Cup of Nations for 37 years. Fans will say winning the 2012 Arab Nations Cup will boost their confidence and is a start to getting back on the gold trail.

Heading into the Nations Cup, the Atlas Lions need to reverse some poor form in late 2012, with the team losing three of its last four matches.

They nearly missed out on South Africa as they lost 2-0 in Mozambique in the first leg of their qualifier. It cost Belgian coach Eric Gerets his job.

Coach Rachid Taoussi took charge last summer and won the return 4-0 in Marrakech. Since then he and has made some big decisions.

There are some notable absentees from the squad. Arsenal (now on loan at West Ham) striker Marouane Chamakh has had a miserable couple of years at club level where he has hardly started a game. Also not featuring is Queens Park Rangers schemer Adel Taarabt.

Apart from goalkeeper Nadir Lamyaghri, the Moroccan defence has limited experience, but Udinese's Mehdi Benatia, who played for France at under-20 level before turning his allegiance to Morocco, bears watching. At 6ft 3in, he lends height to their defence.

French-born Houssine Kharja's career includes playing with clubs in France, Portugal and Italy. He is currently with Qatari outfit Al-Arabi and, having debuted for the Lions of the Atlas back in 2003, he provides a steadying influence in the midfield.

Winger Mbark Boussoufa plays for leading Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala under respected coach Guus Hiddink. He certainly lends an attacking edge to the Moroccan line-up.

Before moving to Russia in 2011, Boussoufa played in Belgium from 2004 to 2011, for Gent and then Anderlecht. During his time there, he won a number of awards, including the Belgian Golden Shoe, Belgian Footballer of the Year, Belgian Young Footballer of the Year and Belgian Ebony Boot, which goes to the best African player in the Belgian Pro League.

Zambia proved in 2012 that anything can happen in the finals. Morocco have a reasonable draw and certainly have the talent to go close.

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