Morocco World Cup Preview & Analysis: Schedule, Roster & Projections
Pictured: Achraf Hakimi.
- Morocco heads into the World Cup led by Hakimi and Ziyech.
- Will they be able to secure some results?
- BJ Cunningham breaks down the team's tactics, roster and schedule.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup has arrived, and Action Network's staff of soccer experts are here to take you through each and every team that will be participating.
Read on for a full breakdown of Morocco ahead of the tournament, and click here for analysis on each of the other 31 teams.
Morocco World Cup Preview
Morocco come into the World Cup after beating the Democratic Republic of the Congo 5-2 on aggregate over a two-leg playoff. Morocco have quietly turned into one of the more dominant teams on the African continent over the past few years. Throughout World Cup Qualiying, nobody in Africa had a better xGD per 90 minutes than Morocco at +0.95.
Even in the Africa Cup of Nations this past January, Morocco completely dominated everyone in their path, creating 11.2 xG while only allowing 2.87 xG in their six matches. They got a result they didn’t deserve against Egypt, losing in extra time in the quarterfinals.
In fact, since March 2021, in 17 straight matches, Morocco have not lost the expected goals battle one time and their opponents have only created over one expected goal against them three times in those 17 matches.
There is loads of talent on this Moroccan team, and it starts with their star man, PSG right back Achraf Hakimi, who is an incredible ball progressor and supplier to the front line. Starting from the back, they have an experienced goalkeeper in Sevilla’s Bono, a solid center back pairing in Romain Saïss and Nayef Aguerd, and another uber-talented full back in Noussair Mazraoui, who didn’t play with the Moroccan team for the Africa Cup of Nations.
|Chances To…||Action Projections||bet365 Odds|
|Win Group Stage||8.66%||+1000|
|Advance To Knockout Round||25.96%||+200|
|Win World Cup||0.15%||+20000|
|Odds as of publish. Action projections by Nick Giffen of the Action Predictive Analytics team.|
Then in the midfield, they have the ever so dependable Sofyan Amrabat as the holding midfielder in their 4-1-4-1 system. Perhaps the biggest positive news for Morocco has to do with Chelsea’s attacking midfielder, Hakim Ziyech. He had a falling out with the Moroccan coach, Vahid Halilhodzic, as did Mazraoui, and hadn’t played for the national team in 15 months. Halilhodzic was sacked in August, and new manager Walid Regragui mended the relationship and called him up for their two friendly matches in September. So, Morocco was putting up incredibly impressive xG numbers over the last two years without two of their best players.
The two main men up front that have been doing most of the goal scoring are Sofiane Boufal and Youssef En-Nesyri. En-Nesyri has been a fantastic striker for Sevilla for a number of years, but the last two seasons he’s put up over a 0.50 xG +xAssist rate per 90 minutes. Boufal is having a resurgent season at Angers, notching a 0.71 xG+ xAssist rate, and he is in the 96th percentile or above among Europe’s top five leagues in xAssists, shot-creating actions, progessive passes and dribbles completed.
Morocco are a big-time dark horse candidate to make some noise in this World Cup, especially being in a group with Belgium, Canada and Croatia. Don’t be surprised if you see the North African nation potentially make the quarterfinals.
Key Player: Achraf Hakimi
Morocco have one of the best right backs in the world in Achraf Hakimi. He’s been playing football at the highest level for a long time after signing for Real Madrid as a teenager. Hakimi has also spent time in the Bundesliga with Dortmund, put up a breakout season in Serie A with Inter and ultimately landed at PSG.
In Ligue 1 this season for PSG, Hakimi has a 0.33 xG + xAssist rate, which is in the 95th percentile among Europe’s top five leagues for full backs. He loves to push up the field to aid in the attack, supplying crosses or even getting into the box himself. He’s averaging 3.1 shot-creating actions, 4.3 touches in the penalty area and 1.7 passes into the penalty area per 90 minutes.
Hakimi is also an above-average defender, and he showed that at the Africa Cup of Nations, leading the tournament with 19 tackles + interceptions, per The Analyst.
He is as important as it gets for Morocco and will be the key man if they are going make a deep run in the World Cup.
Morocco recently changed managers, sacking Halilhodzic in August. They now have brought in Regragui, who had been managing Wydad Casablanca in Morocco and did spend a year from 2012 to 2013 as an assistant manager with the Moroccan National team.
They set up in a 4-1-4-1 formation during the Africa Cup of Nations and even during Regragui’s only two matches in charge against Paraguay and Chile in friendlies in September. Morocco love to push their two wing backs, Hakimi and Mazraoui, high up the pitch to cause a lot of problems down the flanks. They also prefer to build out from the back, having good ball-controlling center backs with Amrabat dropping deep to almost serve as a third center back in build-up plays.
Morocco also love to play a high defensive line, which they do have the personnel and athletes to do effectively. Over the past two years, they only allowed 0.77 xG per 90 minutes. Morocco are also capable of sitting in a low defensive block if necessary.
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Morocco World Cup Schedule
|Croatia||5 a.m. ET, Nov. 23|
|Belgium||8 a.m. ET, Nov. 27|
|Canada||10 a.m. ET, Dec. 1|
Most Recent World Cup Result
Fourth Place, Group Stage (2018)
Morocco returned to the World Cup Finals in 2018 after a 20-year hiatus. They dropped their opening two games by a 1-0 scoreline, but a 2-2 draw against Spain allowed Morocco to avoid a shutout.