One more team is left from the Group B, and it is time to introduce to you the Morocco football national team which will start the tournament as +125 favorites against Iran on June 15th, 2018, at Saint Petersburg Stadium. On June 20th, 2018, Morocco will face Portugal as a huge +500 underdogs at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, while five days later the Atlas Lions will meet Spain at Kaliningrad Stadium in Kaliningrad, and the Bet365 Sportsbook listed them as +750 favorites in this clash.
Morocco was on the biggest stage four times so far in their history, failing to qualify from the group stage on three occasions, while their biggest success was a Round of 16 in Mexico 1986 when they were beaten 1-0 by West Germany. The bookmakers set the Atlas Lions as -700 favorites to finish the journey in the group phase, mostly because they will have two heavyweight rivals in the Group B, Spain, and Portugal, so it is hard to believe Morocco can reach the second round. However, we often saw huge upsets at the FIFA World Cup in the past, so keep track of Morocco if you like to bet on surprises.
Winner: +40000 at Bet365 Sportsbook
To Reach Semi-Finals: +5000
To Reach Quarter-Finals: +1000
Group Qualifying Yes/No: +450 / -700
Group Phase Matches:
|Morocco||Iran||+125||+190||+260||+160 / -211|
|Morocco||Portugal||+500||+260||-163||+120 / -154|
|Morocco||Spain||+750||+375||-275||-106 / -118|
Morocco has a plenty of talent among the squad, and some of their players are performing in the top European leagues. The captain and the leader of this generation is the 30-year old centre-back Medhi Benatia (53 caps, 2 goals) who plays for Juventus in the Italian Serie A, and along with Romain Saiss (20 caps, 1 goal) from Wolverhampton and Zouhair Feddal (14 caps) from Betis, he will be the defensive rock of this Morocco team.
In the midfield, there is a couple of experienced players, as Mbark Boussoufa (55 caps, 7 goals), Karim El Ahmadi (47 caps, 1 goal), and Nordin Amrabat (40 caps, 4 goals) are already in their 30’s, while the fans certainly expect a lot from some young lions – Hakim Ziyech (13 caps, 7 goals), Oussama Tannane (9 caps, 2 goals), Youssef Ait Bennasser (11 caps), and Sofiane Boufal (5 caps) are all under 25, and some of them should prove their worth this summer in Russia. The 27-year old playmaker Younes Belhanda (43 caps, 3 goals) could be another key player in the squad, but we’ll see how his strange character will cope with the pressure.
The 30-year old striker Khalid Boutaib (14 caps, 6 goals) from Yeni Malatyaspor mostly starts in the front, and this is arguably the weakest part of the Atlas Lions’ team – one more reason for the head coach Herve Renard to prefer a 4-2-3-1 formation with Ziyech and Amrabat on the wings, and Boussoufa behind the striker Boutaib. The French tactician had a lot of success with Zambia and Ivory Coast in the past, and he is well-known as a great motivator.
The road to 2018 World Cup: Morocco has finished on the top of the Group C in the African section of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification, leaving behind Ivory Coast, Gabon, and Mali. The Atlas Lions have recorded three victories and three draws with a magnificent 11:0 goal difference, showing some excellent displays throughout their campaign. They’ve bagged nine goals in front of the home fans, while on the road, they’ve managed to beat Ivory Coast 2-0 along with two nil-nil draws against Gabon and Mali.
Gains: Plenty of talent in the midfield and some experienced players should be their biggest strength. Morocco’s players possess good technique and passing skills which is quite unusual for African teams.
Shortcomings: A lack of a world-class striker is probably their biggest problem, while defensive set pieces could also be an issue, as Moroccans are not so good in the air.
Players to Watch: Hakim Ziyech, Younes Belhanda, Sofiane Boufal
Top Goalscorer: Khalid Boutaib +25000, Hakim Ziyech +25000
MY PICK: Morocco vs. Spain Over 2.5 Goals (-106) – the final match of the group stage against Spain could be decisive about Morocco’s future at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, so we should see some goals in this clash. If one of these two teams fail to stay in the competition for the first two spots before the final round than this pick should be even better.
ADDITIONAL PICK: Iran vs. Morocco Under 2 Goals (-117) – I’ve already mentioned this in my previous article about Iran, and I believe we will see a cautious approach from both teams in the opening clash of the tournament. The stake will be huge, and If we don’t get a quick opener, this one should be easily finished under two goals in the total.
Against the Odds: Morocco DC 1X vs. Portugal (+145) – if the Atlas Lions want to reach the second round, they will have to beat Iran in their first game of the tournament, and then to stay undefeated against Portugal or Spain. I choose Portugal, as they should be a far easier rival for Moroccans than the Red Fury.