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Les Lions de l'Atlas


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By The Atlas Lions, Jun 25 2019 03:51PM

( Morocco star Mbark Boussoufa is hoping for a better performance when they face Ivory Coast on Friday.

The Atlas Lions started their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) Group D campaign with a 1-0 win over Namibia in Egypt on Sunday.

Boussoufa walked away with the Man of the Match award following his impressive display at the Al Salam Stadium.

The Al Shabab midfielder feels that Morocco needs to improve as they look to reach the round of 16.

"We were the better side and missed many chances," Boussoufa said.

"The first game is always difficult. We are happy to win even by a slim margin.

"We hope to continue on good results and to perform better next time."

Morocco will take on Ivory Coast in their second Group D match at the Al Salam Stadium.

South Africa are scheduled o face Namibia in the other Group D game at the same venue on Friday.

By The Atlas Lions, Jun 23 2019 05:24PM


CAIRO — A last-minute own goal handed Morocco a narrow 1-0 victory over plucky Namibia at the Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday in a far-from-convincing start from one of the pre-tournament favorites.

Substitute Itamunua Keimune botched an attempted clearance and headed the ball into his own net at the end of a free kick from Morocco midfielder Hakim Ziyech in the 89th minute of the opening Group D game at the Al Salam Stadium.

Morocco coach Herve Renard, who has won two Cup of Nations titles, had warned that the opening game for many of the tournament favorites may be difficult and his forecast proved true as Namibia goalkeeper Lloyd Kazapua produced several key stops.

But his heroics did not extend to the last minute as Morocco took all three points in fortuitous circumstances.

The free kick evaded several defenders before the bounce caught out Keimune who inadvertently steered it past his own goalkeeper in a heartbreaking outcome for underrated Namibia, playing in just their third Cup of Nations.

Kazapua saved several efforts throughout the game, including a quick-thinking scramble with an outstretched leg in the 72nd minute, to keep Morocco at bay, with the 47th-ranked team in the world expected to have a comfortable start.

Morocco dominated a game in hot temperatures where the tempo was languid but looked increasingly desperate as the game wore on.

Renard brought on three strikers in the second half with Sofiane Boufal proving lively but also off-target with his efforts.

The other two teams in Group D — Ivory Coast and South Africa — play their opening game on Monday.

By The Atlas Lions, Jun 23 2019 05:21PM


Namibian Itamunua Keimuine headed an 89th-minute Hakim Ziyech free-kick into his own net to gift Morocco a 1-0 victory Sunday in the opening Africa Cup of Nations Group D match.

It was cruel blow for the minnows from southern Africa, who lived up to their Brave Warriors nickname by taming the much-vaunted Atlas Lions.

Relief was etched on the face of Morocco coach Herve Renard as the final whistle blew after an unconvincing start by one of the competition favourites.

Renard is the only coach to win the Cup of Nations with two countries, guiding outsiders Zambia and previous underachievers the Ivory Coast to success between 2012 and 2015.

As the match kicked off in 36 degree celsius (97 fahrenheit) heat at the Al Salam Stadium, the bookmakers, the FIFA rankings and Cup of Nations history favoured Morocco.

Morocco are 10/1 joint fifth favourites with bookmakers to win the title, 43 years after the only time they lifted a trophy that symbolises African national team supremacy.

The Atlas Lions lie 66 places above the Brave Warriors in the FIFA world rankings and they triumphed 5-1 on the previous occasion the countries met, 11 years ago.

However, while Morocco enjoyed 60 percent possession during the opening 45 minutes in the sweltering Egyptian capital, they rarely troubled Namibia goalkeeper Loydt Kazapua.

It was a defender, right-back Nabil Dirar, who came closest to ending the stalemate with a fiercely struck 11th-minute shot from long range that flew just over the crossbar.

This was one of six goal attempts by the north Africans during the first half, but only two were on target, while both Namibian efforts went wide.

Namibia coach Ricardo Mannetti had warned his Group D opponents before the tournament that "even small dogs bite" and his side were a calm, well-organised outfit in the first half.

The second half was a replica of the first with Morocco pressing continuously and Namibia defending with discipline and intelligence.

Renard introduced Sofiane Boufal, who played for Celta Vigo in La Liga last season on loan from Southampton, and Karim el Ahmadi in an effort to break the deadlock.

The French coach played his final card on 78 minutes, introducing Khalid Boutaib, a familiar figure to Egyptians as he plays for famed Cairo club Zamalek.

Ivory Coast face South Africa Monday at the same stadium in a Group D showdown of former Cup of Nations winners

By The Atlas Lions, Jun 23 2019 01:25PM

Morocco vs Namibia 1-0 Highlights & All Goals

FINAL SCORE: Mor 1-0 Nam


79' K. BOUTAIB comes in for Y. EN-NESYRI

El Ahmadi comes in for @YAitbennasser

58' Boufal comes in for Bourabia

Competition: AFCON 2019

Location: Al-Salam Stadium, Cairo, Egypt

Kickoff: 14h30 GMT, 16h30 CET

Morocco starting 11 vs Namibia

Bounou-Benatia (C)-Saiss-Hakimi-Dirar-Bourabia-Ait Bennasser-Boussoufa-Ziyech-N. Amrabat-En Nesyri

ياسين بونو والمهدي بنعطية ورومان سايس وأشرف حكيمي ونبيل درار والمهدي بوربيعة ويوسف ايت بناصر ومبارك بوصوفة وحكيم زياش ونور الدين امرابط ويوسف نصيري.

By The Atlas Lions, Jun 22 2019 06:43PM

(PA) Morocco have their sights set on reaching the latter stages of the Africa Cup of Nations, according to midfielder Youssef Ait Bennasser.

Herve Renard's side begin their campaign against Namibia, who are ranked 113th in the world, on Sunday and with tricky clashes against the Ivory Coast and South Africa still to come in Group D, they will be targeting all three points.

Monaco's Ait Bennasser is hopeful Morocco can go far in the competition, something Renard is used to doing having lifted the trophy twice – first as Zambia boss in 2012 and then with the Ivory Coast in 2015.

Ait Bennasser told a press conference, reported by the Confederation of African Football's official Twitter account: "Four years ago I joined the national team and it's a huge honour.

"We want to go far in this tournament this time."

Namibia manager Ricardo Mannetti insists his team are not there just to make up the numbers.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, he said: "Our expectations are putting in some good performances – we're in the group of death but we're not there just to be a number.

"We'll try to impress everyone and make our fans happy."

By The Atlas Lions, Jun 22 2019 06:39PM

Cairo (AFP) - Twice Africa Cup of Nations-winning coach Herve Renard on Saturday maintained the suspense over his future with Morocco amid persistent rumours of his departure.

Renard, who is under contract until 2022, is the only coach to win the competition with two countries, and hopes to complete a hat-trick at this year's finals with Morocco.

"I've experienced some great things with Morocco and it's not over," Renard said on the eve of his team's tournament opener in Group D against rank outsiders Namibia in Cairo.

"I know that a lot is expected of me, a lot of us. We're staying focused on the competition and then afterwards ... I have nothing else to say during the tournament. I hope we'll be together for as long as possible."

France-born Renard led outsiders Zambia to the title in 2012 and triumphed again three years later with previously underachieving Ivory Coast.

This will be his second attempt to bring the trophy back to Morocco after a quarter-final exit from the 2017 tournament in Gabon.

Ghanaian Charles Gyamfi and Egyptian Hassan Shehata are the only coaches to have won three Cup of Nations titles, all with the same countries.

By The Atlas Lions, Jun 22 2019 02:40PM

Egypt – The Pharaohs

Madagascar – Barea

Tunisia – Eagles of Carthage

Senegal – The Lions of Teranga

Morocco – Atlas Lions

Mauritania – Lions of Chinguetti

Burundi – The Chayfs (The Swallows)

Algeria – The Desert Foxes.

Guinea – National Elephants

Uganda – The Cranes

Mali – The Eagles

Nigeria – The Super Eagles

Ivory Coast – The Elephants

Kenya – Harambee Stars

Angola – Giant Sable Antelopes (or just Sable Antelopes)

Cameroon – The Indomitable Lions

Ghana – The Black Stars

Guinea-Bissau – Djurtus

Namibia – Brave Warriors

Zimbabwe – The Warriors

DR Congo – The Leopards

Benin – The Squirrels

Tanzania – Taifa Stars/Kilimanjaro Stars

South Africa – Bafana Bafana

By The Atlas Lions, Jun 21 2019 01:29PM

With the African Cup of Nations kicking off this week, NTOF will be looking at some of the most interesting African players to grace Scottish football. Next on the list is Hibs’ Moroccan magician Merouane Zemmama.

The playmaker’s palava

The Moroccan swapped Africa for Edinburgh in August 2006. Initially compared to Hibs legend Russell Latapy by Tony Mowbray, Zemmama was a classic second striker or number 10.

Trickery and flair in abundance, the eye for a killer pass. Zemmama really was a steal for the Hibees on a free transfer. However, he didn’t come without hassle.

Raja Casablanca, the Moroccan giants, claimed that their countryman’s move to the Scottish capital was illegal as he was supposedly under contract until 2009, which therefore caused the Royal Moroccan Football Federation to get involved.

They later announced that they had suspended the player and would investigate the transfer. FIFA went on to state that Zemmama could continue to be selected for Hibs during the investigation.

Compatriot collaboration

Apparently signed to help Abdessalam Benjelloun settle in Scotland, the Moroccans proved menaces for Mowbray’s side going forward. It was under John Collins, his successor, that the capital club would win lift some silverware. Zemmama made a late contribution in the 2007 League Cup final as Hibs registered a 5-1 victory over Kilmarnock.

His compatriot bagged a brace as Hibs ran riot at the national stadium. In fairness to Zemmama, despite only playing just over 10 minutes, he played a helping hand in Hibs grabbing two further goals at 3-1 up. One of which was scored by his club and international teammate, ‘Benji’.

Zemmama the Moroccan menace

Only seven caps for Morocco, it could’ve and should’ve been more but due to that dispute when joining Hibs, the Moroccan Football Federation had initially banned him from representing his nation.

Merouane moved to Middlesbrough

Hibs would make a rumoured £200,000 profit following Tony Mowbray opting to sign the playmaker for a second time, this time as Boro boss.

A player easy on the eye, Zemmama will always be remembered in the capital for helping the Hibees lift their third, and most recent, League Cup.

By The Atlas Lions, Jun 21 2019 01:20PM

After standout campaigns with their European club sides this season, Mohamed Salah, Hakim Ziyech, Sadio Mane and Riyad Mahrez now find themselves in Egypt for the CAF Africa Cup of Nations 2019. However, the quartet, who will be among the headliners at the 32nd edition of the continental championship set to kick off on 21 June, are not the only stars on show. We take a look at eight marvels from the Mother Continent who could dazzle in the land of the Pharaohs.

Mohamed Salah (Egypt)

One of the driving forces behind a magnificent season for Liverpool that culminated in their UEFA Champions League triumph, the irrepressible winger will be trying to keep that going and land his first national-team title after the disappointment of finishing runners-up in this competition two years ago. A veritable living legend in his homeland, Salah will not be short of motivation, as he will be playing on home soil in front of his adoring fans.

Sadio Mane (Senegal)

A team-mate of Salah’s at Liverpool, Mane can also look back fondly at a great season with his club. With a string of goals, assists and wonderful moves, the Senegalese star contributed enormously to the Reds' European triumph. Buoyed by his best ever club season, he will be carrying the hopes of an entire nation at the tournament.

Hakim Ziyech (Morocco)

Another club to have a stunning Champions League campaign this season were Dutch giants Ajax, due in no small part to the form of the Moroccan winger. Consistently impressive with the Amsterdam outfit, where he has been player of the year for the last two seasons, Ziyech has not yet had the same influence with the Atlas Lions. Egypt 2019 looks like the perfect opportunity to change all that.

Riyad Mahrez (Algeria)

Despite winning the Premier League last season with Manchester City, Algeria’s dynamic attacking midfielder was frustrated not to have started more games with the Sky Blues. By contrast, Mahrez is at the centre of everything with Les Fennecs and has the full confidence of coach Djamel Belmadi, who will be tasking him with unlocking opposition defences in Egypt.

Nicolas Pepe (Côte d’Ivoire)

Second to Kylian Mbappe in the Ligue 1 scoring charts with 22 goals, the Lille front man was the revelation of the French league last season. Versatile, fast and with wonderful technique, the Ivorian has all the attributes to be a top player. Expected to spearhead the Elephants’ attack, Pepe looks poised to fill a role that has been vacant since the retirement of Didier Drogba.

Andre Onana (Cameroon)

Almost flawless in goal this season with Ajax, the 23-year-old is hoping to continue the proud lineage of Cameroonian keepers established by Joseph Antoine Bell, Thomas N’Kono and Carlos Kameni. He certainly has the potential, and this Cup of Nations could be his chance to prove that he can replicate the form shown on his club’s European adventure.

Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal)

Voted best defender in Italy’s Serie A last season, the rugged and skilful central defender suffered the disappointment of finishing runner-up in the league with Napoli. Now though, he has the chance to put that behind him with Senegal. With Koulibaly at the heart of defence and Mane up front, the Lions of Teranga have two key weapons as they go in search of a long sought-after, maiden continental crown.

Naby Keita (Guinea)

With the versatility to play anywhere in midfield, the Guinean is fit again after a groin injury last month that ruled him out of the UEFA Champions League final and the final weeks of Liverpool’s season. The 24-year-old is understandably keen for a return to competitive action, which is good news for his country. After all, this is a tournament he relishes, having been one of the revelations of the 2015 edition.

By The Atlas Lions, Jun 21 2019 11:40AM

HERVE RENARD, THE only coach to win the Africa Cup of Nations with two countries, hopes to complete a hat-trick at the 2019 finals by guiding Morocco to glory.

This will be his second attempt to bring the trophy back to Morocco after a quarter-final exit from the 2017 tournament in Gabon.

France-born Renard led outsiders Zambia to the title in 2012 and triumphed again three years later with previously underachieving Ivory Coast.

Ghanaian Charles Gyamfi and Egyptian Hassan Shehata have won three Cup of Nations titles each as coaches, but with the same countries.

Below are five of the most high-profile coaches at the first 24-team Cup of Nations, up from 16 qualifiers two years ago:

Javier Aguirre

The 60-year-old Mexican is in charge of hosts and favourites Egypt, giving him a good chance of becoming only the second Americas coach after Brazilian Otto Gloria to win the tournament.

Aguirre was a midfielder capped 59 times by Mexico between 1983 and 1992, scoring 13 goals, and played for clubs in his homeland, the United States and Spain.

He managed Mexico twice, Japan and various clubs before succeeding Argentine Hector Cuper as Egypt coach after they lost all three matches at the 2018 World Cup.

Kwesi Appiah

He is getting a second chance to bring the trophy back to his native Ghana after a 37-year absence having taken the Black Stars to fourth place in 2013 in South Africa.

Appiah was dumped as national coach after a disastrous 2014 World Cup campaign with Ghana eliminated after the first round as players threatened to strike over unpaid bonuses.

After three years at a Sudanese club, the former full-back was reappointed Ghana coach in 2017, inheriting a national team that has had six consecutive top-four Africa Cup of Nations finishes.

Florent Ibenge

He hopes it will be third time lucky in Egypt after steering the Democratic Republic of Congo to third place in 2015 and the quarter-finals two years ago.

The 57-year-old wanted to quit last year but Congolese officials persuaded him to continue as the country seeks a first African title since defeating Zambia in the 1974 final.

Apart from the national team, Ibenge works with leading Kinshasa team V Club, taking them to the finals of two CAF competitions.

Herve Renard

Taking Zambia to the 2012 title in Gabon was a coaching coup for the charismatic Frenchman with the Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets) not considered contenders when the tournament began.

Although the Ivory Coast boasted star-studded line-ups for many years, the African crown eluded them until the charismatic Frenchman took charge and transformed them into 2015 champions.

His first attempt with Morocco ended at the last-eight stage two years ago, and expectations are high in the kingdom that Renard will take them further this time.

Brazil v Cameroon - International Friendly - Stadium MK Clarence Seedorf, Cameroon manager.

Source: EMPICS Sport

Clarence Seedorf

As a player, Dutch star Seedorf won four Champions League titles with Ajax, Real Madrid and AC Milan.

His coaching career has been less successful, though, with brief spells in charge of AC Milan, Shenzhen in China and Deportivo la Coruna before being axed.

Lucky to avoid defeat away by lowly Comoros in his first assignment as coach of Cup of Nations trophy-holders Cameroon, he has steadily improved the team.

- © AFP, 2019

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