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By The Atlas Lions, Jun 19 2019 07:36PM

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 marksman Abdessalam Benjelloun.

Not the most prolific goalscorer whilst in Edinburgh, ‘Benji’ won the hearts of the Hibs faithful and later became a cult hero for the Hibees.

After signing him from his hometown club, Maghreb Fez, fans began to speculate that a superstar was arriving in Leith given the complex documentation to clinch the signing of Benjelloun in March 2006.

Derby day delight

A month later, he became a major hit with the fans after scoring the winner in the Edinburgh derby against Hearts at Easter Road. The goal already had him held in high regard and so did his rather controversial celebration.

Having scored in front of the home fans, he ran the entire length of the park to celebrate in front of the visiting Hearts supporters. Ironic in that ‘Benji’ spared Zibi Malkowski’s blushes given the Jambos’ equaliser came from yet another goalkeeping error.

The Pole returned the favour by preventing him from reaching the Jambos’ following. Thus looking out for both his teammate and ensuring a major incident didn’t follow.

Benjelloun went down a Hibs hero

However, ‘Benji’ is arguably most remembered for his brace in the 2007 League Cup Final victory against Kilmarnock. He grabbed the second and fourth goal alongside a Rob Jones opener and a Steven Fletcher brace as Hibs smashed Killie 5-1.

The Hibees clinched their third League Cup and the first trophy since winning the very same competition in 1991-92, in which they beat Dunfermline 2-0 at Hampden thanks to goals from Tommy McIntyre and Keith Wright.

Edinburgh to Egypt

Benjelloun scored on his international debut for Morocco, a 4-1 win over Belgium in Brussels. He would go on to score five goals in 24 caps, including scoring in consecutive qualifiers for Morocco in their first two qualification matches for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Following his release by the Edinburgh outfit, he returned to his home continent after signing for Egyptian Premier League side Ismaily SC. He may not have hit the back of the net as often as he could’ve and should’ve but he remains a popular figure down Leith way.

By The Atlas Lions, Jun 19 2019 07:32PM

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. First up is former Aberdeen attacker Hicham Zerouali.

Zerouali’s story is one with immense sadness in it. The Moroccan was sadly killed in a car accident in December 2004 at the age of just 27. After joining the Pittodrie side in 1999, Zerouali went on to capture the hearts of Dons fans everywhere.

He arrived from Fus Rabat when Aberdeen were fighting to survive in the top flight. There was pressure on him to deliver after arriving for a fee. He delivered in sensational fashion.

Zerouali will live long in the memory for Dons fans

The Moroccan had an eye for the spectacular and showed it on many occasions. On his debut he dazzled the Pittodrie crowd with his flicks, tricks and skill, making an instant impression on the crowd. He laid off two goals as Aberdeen beat Hearts 3-1.

Every time he got on the ball there was excitement. His moments of magic like his free kick against St Mirren in the Scottish Cup was why. He helped the Dons reach two cup finals in his debut season in red.

A horror ankle injury seen Zerouali take a seat on the sidelines for months. He returned to the Dons team, sporting the number zero.

He played on 17 occasion for his country Morocco. After his ankle injury though, he never really recaptured his form. There were odd flashes of the player that had arrived in Aberdeen in 1999. He couldn’t get that level of performance on a regular basis though.

Zerouali left Aberdeen for Al Nasr, ending a three year association with them. He played 48 games in total for the Granite City side. He’ll always be remembered with fondness by everyone at the club.

By The Atlas Lions, Jun 19 2019 01:28PM


Morocco and Fenerbahçe winger Nabil Dirar has predicted that the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations will be between hosts Egypt and his side.

The Atlas Lions were drawn in a tough group D alongside Ivory Coast, South Africa, and Namibia, with their opening taking place against the latter on June 23.

Despite the presence of two-time winners Ivory Coast and South Africa, who were crowned champions in 1996, Dirar believes the group is an easy one.

The 33-year-old has also revealed that Morocco’s only target is to win the title for the first time since 1976, and he expects his side will have to beat Egypt in the final in order to do so.

“The Egyptian national team are very strong and favourites for the title,” Dirar told ONsport.

“On paper, we are in an easy group, but things are different on the pitch. Our target is to win the title.

“I predict the final to be between Egypt and Morocco,” the former Monaco player added.

Egypt faced Morocco in the 2017 edition and managed to beat them 1-0 in the quarter-finals, thanks to Mahmoud Kahraba’s late winner.

On the other hand, Morocco haven’t gone past the quarter-finals of the AFCON since 2004, when they lost the final to then-hosts Tunisia.

By The Atlas Lions, Jun 18 2019 02:59PM

By: Egypt Today

CAIRO - 18 June 2019: The Moroccan team will arrive in Cairo at 5:00 pm on Tuesday to participate in the African Nations Cup which starts on Friday with the match between Egypt and Zimbabwe at the Cairo Stadium in Group A matches.

Morocco are in Group D with Côte d'Ivoire, South Africa and Namibia, and Al-Salam Stadium hosts the group's matches. The team will start with the match against Namibia on Sunday.

The Moroccan team has a list of only 22 players after the exit of Abdel Razzaq Hamdallah, the striker of Alnasr Club from the list chosen by the French coach Herve Renard and includes the following names:

By The Atlas Lions, Jun 17 2019 03:08PM


Morocco national team coach Herve Renard says the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations will be a key tournament for the future of football on the continent.

This year’s edition of the AFCON is the first to move into the middle of the year – and therefore avoid the issue of African players in major leagues leaving their clubs for an international tournament in the middle of a season – as well as introducing an expanded format of 24 teams (up from the previous number of 16 qualifiers).

“I think both decisions are good for football in Africa. To play in June is much better, even if we could have problems with weather in some parts of Africa,” Renard is quoted by The Scotsman.

“But in terms of relationships with clubs in Europe or anywhere around the world, it is very important because things got complicated previously.”

Renard is looking to become the first man to lead three different nations to AFCON glory, having taken Zambia and the Ivory Coast to the title in 2012 and 2015 respectively.

He has also made his mark in Morocco by guiding them back to the World Cup last year – their first appearance at the global tournament in two decades.

“This will be my seventh tournament,” added the Frenchman. “In terms of the image of Africa, this continent needs to improve because all around the world these days they can watch the tournament.

“This is a key tournament for our football – and I say our football because I consider I am part of Africa too.

“I have been on this continent for so many years now and sometimes I don’t like the image we give to everybody so if we want more positive comments about us to come from other parts of the world then we need to improve.”

By The Atlas Lions, Jun 16 2019 02:20PM

FINAL SCORE: Morocco 2-3 Zambia!

5 minutes of additional time

Mehdi Bourabia comes in for Mehdi Benatia

83' Oussama Idrissi comes in for En-Nesiry

Mbark Boussoufa booked in the 78' minute

75' Fayçal Fajr comes in for Younes Belhanda

Morocco 2-3 Zambia, goal scored in the 74th minute!

60' Yunis Abdelhamid comes in for Romain Saiss

Hakim Ziyech again levels up the score for Morocco from penalty spot 2-2

Second half changes:

Boussoufa for Boufal and Ait Bennasser for El Ahmadi


Zambia take the lead again, 1-2 vs Morocco

42' Achraf Hakimi booked

Hakim Ziyech levels up the score for Morocco against Zambia 1-1 in the 24th minute.

Zambia take the lead 0-1 against Morocco by Musonda

Match is underway!

Match: Morocco Vs Zambia

Kickoff: 16h30 GMT, 18h30 CET

Location: Marrakech

Competition: Friendly

#Morocco starting 1⃣1⃣ 🆚 #Zambia

Bounou-Dirar-Hakimi-Benatia (C)-Saiss-El Ahmadi-Belhanda-Boufal-Ziyech-Amrabat-En Nesyri

Live Broadcast: Bein Sports HD2, Arryadia

Live streaming:

By The Atlas Lions, Jun 16 2019 12:56PM


The assumption is that former champions the Ivory Coast, Morocco and South Africa will wage a private war in Group D at the Africa Cup of Nations with Namibia helpless onlookers.

But Namibia coach Ricardo Mannetti questions that belief ahead of the June 21-July 19 tournament in Egypt.

"I would like to remind the big boys that even small dogs have teeth," warned the former national team midfielder.

Namibia have met all their Group D rivals before at the Cup of Nations without success -- conceding five goals against Morocco and four each against the Ivory Coast and South Africa.

Here, AFP Sport looks at a group considered the strongest of the six in the first round with only the winners and runners-up guaranteed round-of-16 places

Ivory Coast

The Ivorians experienced ecstasy and agony in the last two editions, winning the 2015 final in Equatorial Guinea and crashing out after the first round two years ago in Gabon.

It is difficult to fathom how the class of 2019 will fare except to note that they have an attack that many rivals must envy.

Only French superstar Kylian Mbappe scored more Ligue 1 goals last season than Nicolas Pepe and Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha has tormented many Premier League defenders.

Coach Ibrahim Kamara will also be encouraged by the form of clubless Wilfried Bony, a 2015 Cup of Nations winner who bagged a brace in a recent warm-up match.

Verdict: Probable quarter-finalists; possible semi-finalists


The pressure is on the Cup of Nations coach with the winning touch, Frenchman Herve Renard, to bring the trophy back to Morocco after a 43-year absence.

Morocco finished first ahead of Guinea in 1976 in the only Cup of Nations decided exclusively by groups, but have reached only one final since, losing to 2004 hosts Tunisia.

Renard is the only coach to win the Cup of Nations with different countries, leading outsiders Zambia to glory in 2012 and repeating the feat with underachieving Ivory Coast three years later.

He has retained most of the squad that impressed at the World Cup last year without managing a win and Ajax Amsterdam winger Hakim Ziyech is among those on whom he will rely.

Verdict: Likely finals include Morocco against Egypt


Unlike Kamara, Renard and South Africa coach Stuart Baxter, there is no pressure on Mannetti, who admits his team are lucky just to be in Egypt.

Trounced 4-1 by Zambia in the final qualifying round, the Brave Warriors made it because leaders Guinea-Bissau snatched a stoppage-time draw to deprive Mozambique of second place.

At least Mannetti knows what to expect as Namibia have conceded 13 goals in Cup of Nations matches against the Ivorians, Moroccans and South Africans.

"We do not expect to win the competition, but we need to qualify more often," says the coach. "Once every 10 years or so is not going to get us anywhere."

Verdict: it would be a sensation if they survived first round

South Africa

South Africa go to Egypt as one of the most unpredictable teams.

Bafana Bafana scaled the heights at the outset of 2019 qualifying by winning 2-0 in Nigeria, then sank into mediocrity by drawing 0-0 away to lowly ranked Seychelles.

England-born Baxter blamed the pitch in the Seychelles for the failure to score -- the same surface where Libya netted eight times.

Much will depend on the form of wide attacker Percy Tau, who was loaned to a Belgian second division club last season after signing for Premier League outfit Brighton.

Verdict: Anything is possible with Bafana

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