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By The Atlas Lions, Oct 14 2019 01:41PM

Days after he officially announced that he is retiring from his international career, Moroccan footballer Mehdi Benatia has spoken to beIN Sport about what he felt before taking the decision.

He revealed that retiring was part of his plans before the start of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon). According to the former Atlas Lions’ captain, some of his teammates could be blamed for the defeat.

«Did we have the squad to win Afcon? I do not think so. Did we have the strength to beat Benin? Obviously! What is frustrating is to be defeated by a team that was not stronger than us».

Mehdi Benatia

«Unfortunately, I felt severe pain in my neck (…) I could not play for four days. So, I was very disappointed», he added, referring to the Atlas Lions' Afcon performance

«You do not win a competition with good players but rather with great players (…) We need a center forward who scores 35 goals per season in a big European club and who would come to unlock the game. We missed that during my days», he regretted.

...More :

By The Atlas Lions, Oct 12 2019 11:27AM

In a statement to Moroccan TV channel Arryadia, the coach of Morocco’s national football team, Vahid Halilhodzic, expressed his disappointment at his team’s performance during the friendly game against Libya.

The game that took place yesterday, October 11, in Oujda ended in a 1-1 draw.

Morocco took the lead in the 20th minute after defender Jaouad Yamiq, who plays for Italian club Genoa CFC, scored a goal.

The Libyan squad equalized the score in the 42nd minute of the game, thanks to a goal from Sanad El Ouarfali. El Ouarfali currently plays for Morocco’s Raja Casablanca.

Halilhodzic did not hide his disappointment in his post-game interview, “There is a lot of work to do to rebuild the team.”

“The game’s result is disappointing. We really wanted to win to please the fans who supported us here in Oujda. There are many things that should be improved,” said the coach.

“We had a number of scoring opportunities, but we rush and panic… We could have won if Rachid Alioui transformed his last minute chance into a goal, but it is what it is,” added Halilhodzic.

The Bosnian coach also praised the performance of the Libyan team, “They are a surprising team, with many technical qualities, especially in counter-attacks.”

“We are trying to completely rebuild the team… We need time to get good results,” concluded Halilhodzic.

The friendly game against Libya is part of the Atlas Lions preparations for the 2021 African Cup of Nations (CAN) qualifiers. Morocco will face Gabon in a second friendly game next Tuesday, October 15, in Tangier.

By The Atlas Lions, Oct 12 2019 10:00AM

(Xinhua) -- Morocco was held to a 1-1 draw by Libya in a soccer friendly in Oujda eastern Morocco on Friday.

Jaouad Yameq scored for Morocco after 20 minutes, before Sanad El Ouerfelli equalized for the visitors in the 42nd minute.

Morocco will play another friendly with Gabon on October 15 in Tangier.

The games are part of the preparation for the 2021 African Cup of Nations (CAN) qualifiers to be held in Cameroon.

Morocco had beaten Niger 1-0 and tied Burkina Faso 1-1 in warmups in September.

By The Atlas Lions, Oct 10 2019 07:59PM

Moroccan determined to take his second chance in the Premier League with Southampton.

The return of Sofiane Boufal has been a welcome sight for Southampton supporters. Back from loan, the Moroccan admits he’s got things wrong in his Saints past, but is determined to make up for lost time with a new mindset to help him conquer the Premier League…

Having wiped the slate clean after a 12-month hiatus in Spain with Celta Vigo, he’s back at Southampton with a point to prove. He looks fitter, hungrier, more determined.

This interview is no different. Rather than see it as a chore, the maverick Moroccan takes the opportunity to open up, admit his mistakes and explain why he’s so grateful for a second crack at the Premier League.

There’s never been any doubting his talent. Combining that with this freshly-lit fire in his belly makes Boufal one to keep an eye on.

Recently turning 26, the roaming midfielder with the dizzying footwork knows it’s about the here and now. It’s time to unlock the potential.

“When I went away and when I came back… I’m not the same person,” he says, with a steely glare.

“I think I’m a lot more mature and I know exactly what I want. That’s why I work hard, because I don’t want to have regrets.

“I want to put all that I can on my side to achieve my ambitions.”

When pressed on where part one of his Saints career took a negative turn, Boufal doesn’t shirk the question. But his focus soon turns to the sequel – one he hopes will have a happier ending.

“All people make mistakes – the most important thing is not the mistake, but how you react to the mistake,” he continues.

“I think I’ve reacted well. I was looking at what was good and what was not good, and I progressed like that.

“All people make mistakes, but now I am more mature, more calm and ready to smash the Premier League.”

He grins after that last line. It’s a mixture of the old and the new Boufal. For all the intent to do well and eagerness to impress, the cheeky side to him that loves nothing more than to flummox defenders remains alive and well.

He reveals a new outlook: never take anything for granted, never get carried away, never look too far ahead.

"I want to go step by step,” he explains. “For now, I am more focused about the next game.

“I am not focused about the next ten games, or how many goals I need to score, or how many assists I need to make.

“I don’t want to put too much pressure on me – I just want to play a good game.

“You always need to be focused on the next game and to keep playing well. At the end, I hope that will be good enough.”

That’s the end, but what about the beginning of the sequel? Boufal reveals there was summer interest that could have ended his Saints career prematurely, but giving up on his Premier League dream was never on the agenda.

“Since the first day I came back here, I knew I would stay,” he says. “I spoke with the club and I had good offers in the summer – maybe two or three times what I earn here in salary – but I didn’t want to go.

“They were very good offers in Europe, but I was focused on staying here. I wanted to stay in Southampton, work hard and be part of the team.

“I am a very ambitious player and I want to show the people who I am. I’m very excited about this season with Southampton.

“I love this club, I like the fans and since I left I always watched the games to see how Southampton is doing.

“The club is still the same. The club is a family club – all the people are very friendly and there is a very good atmosphere here.”

Boufal has only good things to say about his time in La Liga. It’s not that he was desperate to get away from Spain, just that he knew he had unfinished business in the red and white stripes.

“The Premier League is the Premier League – maybe the best league in the world. I love the atmosphere in the stadiums. It’s very good and I’m very happy,” he added.

“I wouldn’t say I missed it, because if I say that I think it would be disrespectful to my last club (Celta Vigo).

“I enjoyed my time there and it was a very good experience. It was a new country, a new philosophy and a new language. I loved my time there.”

What’s clear is the influence of Ralph Hasenhüttl, whose high-intensity approach and pressing from the front may have seemed at odds with Boufal’s natural game.

But this is the new, enlightened Boufal, remember, and this one is desperate to learn and embrace the demands placed on him by the boss.

“The only thing that’s changed between when I left and when I came back is the manager – that’s it,” he says.

“Since he (Hasenhüttl) came, I was watching all the games and I knew a bit about the philosophy.

“The first day I came back here, I spoke with the manager and he showed me some videos and showed me how he thinks about football.

“He wants me to play well and work hard for the team – to press, to counter-press and to play in his philosophy.

“That’s why I work hard – very hard – every day, to be ready physically to do all that he asks from me.

“It is the first time for me playing in this way, but I am very happy. For me, he is a very good manager, and the ideas he has are very good ideas.

“That’s why I do everything to be part of his philosophy and his team.”

New manager, new philosophy, new Boufal. But one thing that remains unchanged for the man with the dancing feet is the esteem in which he is held by the Saints fans.

Their support from afar on social media, he reveals, helped persuade him to knuckle down and try again when many assumed his stay on the south coast would be coming to an end.

Now back in the starting XI, the palpable sense of anticipation when he faces up a defender and the heightened roar with every sidestep are very much intact.

“Of course I feel it,” he smiles. “I think it’s my style of play, because when I have the ball, no one will know what I will do.

“But also I want to have the feeling that when I score all the people are happy. I hope to have that feeling soon.

“For a football player, when you have the fans with you and the fans like you, it’s very important.

“I have always had a good relationship with the fans. I was very happy when I saw some messages on Twitter from people wanting me to come back to the club. That also helped me to stay here.”

By The Atlas Lions, Oct 10 2019 11:36AM

These are the new Morocco shirts 2019, the new uniforms for the Moroccan national football team for the upcoming 19/20 season. Made by Puma, with whom the FRMF recently signed a multi-year contract (replacing Adidas), the kits were officially unveiled on 9 October, 2019 in the city of Casablanca.

The Atlas Lions had a mixed AFCON last year- they finished with a 100% record in the group, brushing aside Ivory Coast, South Africa and Namibia, but were knocked in the last eight on penalties by Benin, who had qualified as one of the best placed third teams.

The kits (one red and the other green) appear to be pretty standard templates from Puma, as can be seen in the pics below

By The Atlas Lions, Oct 10 2019 11:10AM

By Morocco World News

In September, Hamdallah released a video on his Instagram, promising Moroccan fans to reveal why he left the training camp ahead of the African Cup of Nations.

Head coach of the Moroccan national football team Vahid Halilhodvic said that Moroccan football player Abderrazak Hamdallah refused his invitation to play with the Atlas Lions.

In a press conference on Wednesday, October 9, Halilhodvic said that Hamdallah had refused to join the Moroccan national team’s training camp ahead of the two friendly games against Gabon and Libya.

The coach said that Hamdallah, who plays for Saudi football club Al Nassr, was on the initial list.

“He told me that he does not want to play for the Moroccan team now.”

Halilhodvic added that members of the football team’s technical staff and former football player Mustafa Hajji had also contacted him.

“He is a player with a lot of great potential, but he also has many flaws,” the coach said.

It did not take much for the player to respond to Halilhovidc statements, stating that he had not received an invitation to play with Morocco.

On an Instagram story post, Hamdallah said that he “denies the news that he refused to [play] with the Moroccan national team as I have not received an invitation from the coach nor the Moroccan Football Federation [FRMF].”

In September, the football player promised to release a video to explain why he left the national team.

In June, Hamdallah left the training camp where the Moroccan team was training in preparation for the 2019 African Cup of Nation (CAN).

After his exit, the FRMF released a statement claiming that the football player left due to an injury.

The explanation raised questions among Moroccan football fans.

Several sports news outlets also said that the major cause of his exit was a rift with his teammate Faycal Fajr during a friendly match between Morocco and Gambia in June.

The new head coach said that he has been following Hamdallah during his latest games with Al Nassr.

“I saw his reactions in the latest games with his club, he received several [yellow] cards. This is negative for a football player.”

The coach said that he trusts the lineup he has for these two friendly games, including Amine Harit and Youssef En-nesyri.

Halilhodvic said that what happened with Hamdallah is similar to the case of Kevin Malcuit, a Moroccan-French football player.

Halilhovidc called Malcuit to join the Atlas Lions in the game, but he refused the invitation.

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