Will Morocco’s Atlas Lions continue to be a roaring success?
Morocco, the reigning FIFA World Cup champions, will enter the African Nations Championship (CHAN) after their impressive performance in Qatar 2022.
Coach Walid Regragui may have sailed the Atlas Lions to fourth place in the FIFA World Cup Finals, but it will be a different ballgame in January. All 17 teams can only call up players who ply their trade in their respective home leagues.
The ambitious Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FMRF) began their plan to actually make their home more than a decade ago. It is therefore no coincidence that Moroccan clubs are the winners of the men’s and women’s African Champions League titles, as well as the men’s Confederations Cup – the CAF European League.
Although impressive in Qatar with strengths such as a solid defense and intuitive counter-attack, Morocco is not the favorite to win the CHAN.
Cameroon, who stunned a much-changed Brazil side 1-0 in the World Cup, were installed as favorites (+530) ahead of Morocco (+700) and Ivory Coast (+800).
CHAN presents a great challenge on the big stage, which will be faced by the elite teams of the continent from mid-January to February 4th.
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Ethiopia, who stunned Egypt in the qualifiers, are one of the few African teams to be made up mainly of home-grown players anyway – so they have a huge advantage in this competition. They will compete in Group A with hosts Algeria, 2014 CHAN Championship champions Libya and Mozambique.
Côte d’Ivoire, who failed to reach Qatar 2022, will play the DR Congo and two-time champions Senegal in Group Two. Uganda was due to compete in Group B. Senegal coach Aliou Cisse will seek glory in his third leg of victory. chan.
Morocco is expected to top Group C after meeting Ghana, Madagascar and Sudan. With Mali, the seed will play Angola and Mauritania in Group D.
Cameroon reached the semi-finals on home soil in the last CHAN tournament, but coach Alioum Seydou is focused on winning first prize this time around. Cameroon is seeded in Group E with Congo and Niger.
18 nations were supposed to be in the CHAN but Uganda withdrew from the tournament due to lack of funds. Moses Magogo, president of the Federation of Uganda Football Associations, alleged that the government had failed to provide the promised funding.
Morocco is not afraid of the group matches against Madagascar and Sudan, but they appreciate that Ghana is a tough test.
Ghana, yet to win a CHAN tournament, failed to win a match in the group stages of the Africa Cup of Nations but did reach the finals of the World Cup. The head coach of the Black Stars, who was recently installed to turn things around, is former Ghana international Otto Addo.
With the CHAN from last year postponed, the competition means every team that participates has a chance at the coveted trophy.
Regragui was the mastermind behind Morocco’s goalless draw and penalty shootout in the Round of 16 at the expense of the Spaniards in Qatar, a victory that was a historic day for the Atlas Lions, for Africa, and for Arabs and Muslims. Morocco recorded its first victory in the knockout stages of the World Cup finals.
He was only installed as head coach 100 days before the hugely lucrative World Cup was to begin, a gamble that paid dividends for the Argentine Football Association as they reached the semi-finals in Qatar courtesy of a 1-0 win over refinished Portugal.
Their career ended abruptly due to injuries to key players, and they were defeated by defending champions France and then fell to Croatia in the third/fourth round of the play-offs.
However, the Atlas Lions face a real test in repeating the same kind of success at CHAN, as they will be without the stars to shine for big-name European clubs, even though they are defending champions after beating Mali 2-0 in 2020.
Although many considered Morocco an underdog before kicking the ball, it was no surprise to those who knew him. The Moroccan Football Federation carried out structural reforms for football in the country in 2009, thanks to the support of King Mohammed VI.
The Mohammed VI Football Academy, located just outside Rabat, has helped develop existing international stars and scout qualified young talent across Europe. The results have been impressive, and more than half of the Moroccan national team in Qatar 2022 were born outside the country they represent.
FMRF developed the sport in schools and clubs as well as creating a national league structure. By investing heavily in women’s football, Morocco is the only country to have promoted two professional levels.
Entering Qatar 2022 ranked outside the top 20 players in the world, the Moroccan Football Federation was not surprised to see Morocco’s defense stars empty like Belgian Kevin De Bruyne, Croatian Luka Modric and Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo.
Morocco will already be leaving Qatar in the rearview mirror to focus on CHAN, though their ultimate goal will be to shine the spotlight on the 2026 World Cup to be hosted by Canada, Mexico and the United States.