Boussoufa will lean on Russian experience

2017 was quite a year for Mbark Boussoufa.

The Moroccan international played a big part in his country’s qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and he helped his club Al Jazira of the United Arab Emirates take fourth place at the FIFA Club World Cup.

The 33-year-old midfielder featured in all the Atlas Lions’ matches in the final round of the African qualifiers for Russia 2018, and is hoping to do the same when his side takes on Portugal, Spain and IR Iran in the group phase at this year’s world finals.

Morocco were rewarded with a tough World Cup draw with European champions Portugal, Spain and Iran.

"It’s a tough group but we have to give it our very best shot. The team will be ready to put in a good performance. We’re going to come up against some great teams and we know what to expect. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

"If we’re not setting our sights on a place in the second round, then we might as well stay at home. We’re not going to the World Cup just to take part but to show what we’re capable of. We’re going to do all we can to get past the first round."

The opening game against Iran is crucial to get the Atlas Lions off to a good start.

"Iran won’t be easy opponents. The Iranians finished top of their group in the Asian qualifiers and let very few goals in. Everyone will be focusing on the competition and even more on that group. We have to be ready to take on any team, from the first match to the last. The opening match is going to be decisive in terms of what lies ahead."

Boussoufa has good memories of France 1998, which was Morocco’s last World Cup appearance 

"I remember it well even if I was only 13 at the time, and I can still recall the exploits of Mustapha Hadji and Salaheddine Bassir, though they failed to reach the second round. Hadji is now an assistant to the national team head coach and shares his experience with us. Obviously we’ve watched videos of that team."

Boussoufa spent six seasons playing in Russia so there will be an air of familiarity to aid his World Cup experience.

"I enjoyed six amazing years in Moscow. It’s a beautiful city and one of the biggest in Europe. The Russian league is one of the best too. At the time there were eight clubs fighting it out for the title, with some great foreign players around too. I learned a lot on a personal and professional level.

"The country has invested a lot in football in these last few years and has put in a huge effort to develop the sport. Personally, I’m delighted that the World Cup is being held in Russia to give Russian football support."



Morocco's matches at Russia 2018:

Morocco-IR Iran ( Friday 15 June, Saint Petersburg Stadium, Saint Petersburg, 18:00 local time)

Portugal-Morocco (Wednesday 20 June, Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, 15:00 local time)

Spain-Morocco (Monday 25 June, Kaliningrad Stadium, Kaliningrad, 20:00 local time)


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