Nigeria can even do better than Morocco at World Cup – NFF chief

The Secretary General of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Mohammed Sanusi says the Super Eagles are capable of performing better than Morocco at the ongoing Qatar 2022 World Cup.

Morocco have become the first African country to play in the semifinal of the Mundial.

The Atlas Lions topped Group F ahead of Croatia, Belgium and Canada before beating Spain on penalties in the Round of 16.

The North African side pipped Portugal in their quarterfinal game with Youssef En-Nesyri’ scoring the only goal.

Morroco will face France, who are defending champions later tonight at the Al Bayt Stadium.

However, the NFF Secretary-General said he was impressed with the North African country’s progress at the World Cup but suggested that Nigeria could do better.

“Morocco has done exceedingly well for Africa at the ongoing Fifa World Cup in Qatar,” Sanusi told Complete Sports, as quoted by Goal.

“Nigeria is capable of doing likewise and even better if we have a peaceful atmosphere in which all stakeholders work towards a common, noble goal.”

Nigeria failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup after being beaten to a ticket by West African rivals Ghana in March.

Source: Modern Ghana

2022 World Cup: Things to know about Morocco coach Walid Regragui

The talented Morocco national team had been plagued by internal strife until Walid Regragui came on board. Now, they are the first Arab and African country to qualify for a World Cup semi-final. Who is this unheralded coach who has been compared to an avocado?

• 1. He is a former footballer and Moroccan international

Born in France, Regragui – whose first name is sometimes spelt Hoalid – was a right-back who played in smaller French and Spanish teams such Ajaccio in Ligue 1 before he moved to La Liga with Racing Santander.

He did well enough to be called up by the national team and played 45 times for them, reaching the Africa Cup of Nations in 2004 when Morocco lost to Tunisia in the final.

• 2. He was appointed just 81 days before the Qatar World Cup

Vahid Halilhodzic was Morocco’s coach when the Atlas Lions qualified for Qatar 2022. But the Bosnian was sacked after being criticised for not picking enough locally based players and ignoring Hakim Ziyech.

Up stepped Regragui, who actually had only 60 days to prepare for the major assignment. While being a relative unknown, he is a winner with a strong managerial record.

After his first assignment as Morocco’s assistant national coach for a year, he coached in the local league at FUS, Qatar league with Al-Duhail before returning to the Botola Pro with Wydad AC. He won league titles with all three clubs, and has 302 games under his belt at the club level and lost only 68 matches.

He is unbeaten with Morocco, conjuring five wins and three draws.

• 3. He has united Morocco football

With a group of diaspora and local-born players, there is potential for contention and controversy such as Netherlands-born Ziyech’s omission under Halilhodzic.

Fourteen of the 26 players in the Morocco squad are born overseas, but Regragui has managed to keep them united.

After beating Spain in the round of 16, he said: “Before this World Cup, we had a lot of problems with the guys born in Europe and the guys born in Morocco. But today I think it shows to the world that every Moroccan is a Moroccan.”

Being a foreign-born Moroccan himself means he is able to draw on his own experience and get the best out of stars with similar backgrounds to commit to the national team.

• 4. He has a pragmatic coaching philosophy

In their five matches at this World Cup, Morocco have played Croatia, Belgium, Canada, Spain and Portugal with an average possession of just 31.6 per cent, while their pass completion rate is also less than stellar at 76.8 per cent.

But the most important statistic is they are still in the tournament. Opponents still have not been able to score directly against them; the only goal they conceded was their own goal against Canada.

What makes them tick is the defensive tactical discipline, counterattacking speed, and of course, Yassine Bounou’s goalkeeping flair, all of which Regragui deserves credit for.

In particular, they have been executed to near perfection their defensive blankets comprising their back four and midfield three to suffocate other teams before launching Achraf Hakimi, Youssef En-Nesyri and Ziyech on the break.

Regragui said: “I can set up in a myriad of ways. I admire Pep Guardiola, Diego Simeone and Carlo Ancelotti, but I have my own individual style of adapting the team based on the capabilities of the players available.”

• 5. He could make avocado Morocco’s national fruit

When he was appointed, underwhelmed pundits gave the bald Regragui the derogatory nickname “avocado head”.

Rather than take it to heart, he showed great EQ to pose for a photo, holding an avocado with a soccer ball inside it and pointing his finger at his head.

His players have also caught on to the trolling, patting his head before matches for luck and evoking memories of Laurent Blanc kissing Fabian Barthez’s pate before France matches at their triumphant World Cup 1998 campaign.

Source: Modern Ghana

Moroccan football fans left in the lurch after Royal Air Maroc cancels all Qatar flights

Morocco’s national airline has cancelled all flights it had scheduled to carry fans to Doha for the World Cup semi-final, citing what it said was a decision by the Qatari authorities.

Royal Air Maroc said in a statement this Wednesday, “Following the latest restrictions imposed by the Qatari authorities, Royal Air Maroc regrets to inform customers of the cancellation of their flights operated by Qatar Airways.”

The Qatari government’s international media office has reportedly not responded to requests for a comment on the move.

Royal Air Maroc had previously said it would lay on 30 additional flights to help fans get to Qatar for Wednesday night’s semi-final game against France but on Tuesday the airline reported only 14 flights had been scheduled.

The cancellation of Wednesday’s seven scheduled flights means Royal Air Maroc was only able to fly the seven flights on Tuesday, leaving fans who had booked match tickets or hotel rooms unable to travel.

The national carrier said it would reimburse air tickets and apologised to customers.

Source: Modern Ghana

2022 World Cup: Hugo Lloris texted Harry Kane after France beat England

France captain Hugo Lloris says “it was not easy to find the words” when he texted Tottenham team-mate, Harry Kane after his side had knocked England out of the World Cup in Qatar.

Three Lions skipper Kane missed a penalty against goalkeeper Lloris during France’s 2-1 win on Saturday.

They will reunite as team-mates on 26 December, when Spurs face Brentford in the Premier League.

“It’s a difficult time for the England national team and Harry,” said Lloris.

“We had a text after the game. It was not easy to find the words. He needed some time to rest.

“I think he can be proud of what he has done for the national team.

“In football history, many top players have missed penalties in their career – Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo – but I have no doubt Harry will keep his chin up and help Tottenham and the national team to shine.”

Lloris’ France play Morocco in the World Cup semi-finals on Wednesday as they continue their defence of the title they won four years ago in Russia.

Morocco have been the surprise package in Qatar, having beaten Belgium, Spain and Portugal en route to the last four.

“It will be a hostile atmosphere inside the stadium, but we are ready for anything,” added Lloris.

“Obviously, it is already a success for Morocco – but, believe me, they won’t want to stop here.

“They want to become even more of a hero for their country. We prepare to respond to the demands of a semi-final of a World Cup – it doesn’t matter the opponent.”

France manager Didier Deschamps and his players had been prepared for the “loud support” the Atlas Lions will have at Al Bayt Stadium.

“I don’t like the term hostile for the environment because that is negative,” he said. “They have great support, which is useful to them.

“It is very noisy and my staff have told the players about that. It is not going to score you goals, but it is great to have such loud support.

“When you prepare for a match you have to prepare for the atmosphere – my players know what to expect.”

Source: Modern Ghana

Andre Ayew returns to Al Sadd training ahead of season return

Black Stars captain, Andre Ayew has resumed training with Al Sadd following Ghana’s elimination from the ongoing 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Andre featured in Ghana’s all three games and was on the scoresheet against Portugal in the Group H opener.

Ghana exited the tournament after finishing at the bottom of Group H with three points.

Unfortunately, Andre’s penalty miss in the final group game cost Ghana the chance to advance to the knockout stage of the tournament.

The 32-year-old apologised and received widespread support from Ghanaians. He appears to have recovered and is now focused on finishing the year strong.

Andre Ayew is still looking for his 200th career goal after scoring 175 in a stellar career.

In November, he became Ghana’s most capped player, as well as the third Ghanaian to score in multiple World Cup finals.

Andre Ayew will be back in action on December 23 when Al Sadd take on Qatar SC.

Source: Modern Ghana

France and Morocco to battle for their place in history at Qatar World Cup

France in the semi-final of the World Cup seems as natural as cafe and croissants. Didier Deschamps’ men came into the Qatar tournament as defending champions boasting world-class operators such as Kylian Mbappé, Antoine Griezmann and Hugo Lloris.

However, Morocco, their adversaries on Wednesday night at the Al Bayt Stadium, paraded few such talents and were regarded, along with Canada, as the cannon fodder in Group F. Croatia and Belgium were anointed for the last-16.

Morocco, though, drew with Croatia, upset Belgium 2-0 and beat Canada to claim the pool.

And following wins over a couple of other putative European powerhouses, Morocco stand one game away from Sunday’s final.

The clash for that berth to face Argentina provides the competition with a compelling array of narratives such as colonialism, immigration and continental pride.

Morocco’s squad approaches the semi-final as the first African team to reach the last four in the 92-year history of the World Cup.

History

They are also the first Arab country to advance to the last four. A particularly apt achievement with Qatar the first Middle Eastern nation to host the World Cup.

Such kinship was on vivid display following Morocco’s penalty shootout win over Spain in the last-16. Two skyscrapers in downtown Doha were lit up with the colours of the Moroccan flag.

Cars zoomed around honking horns as celebrations exploded into life around Morocco and other cities such as Paris and London with large Moroccan communities.

The Morocco team comprises players reared outside the country. The coach, Walid Regragui, was born in France.

“I’m a dual national and that’s an honour and a pleasure,” said Regragui.

Honour

“And it’s an honour and a pleasure to face France. But I’m the Morocco coach and we’re going to be playing the best team in the world. The most important thing is to get through to the final.”

With Morocco under French rule between 1912 and 1956, the colonial strand offers an intriguing diversion especially with so many of the France players descendants of people who were not born in mainland France.

The historical animosity could, suggested Lloris, fire a hostile environment in the stadium.

“The Morocco fans are going to make a lot of noise,” said the 35-year-old who will be making a record-extending 144th appearance for his country.

“It will be a raucous atmosphere. It’s going to be a tough time to concentrate in that sense, but during the match we’re going to have to remain focused.”

Feat

Deschamps – one of only three men to have won the World Cup as a player and as a coach – is attempting to join Vittorio Pozzo as the only man to lead a team to back-to-back World Cups.

Pozzo pulled off the feat with Italy in 1934 and 1938.

Nearly a century later, Deschamps’ charges have to break through a defence that has conceded only one goal in the tournament.

But at least the 54-year-old can rely on Mbappé and Olivier Giroud who have clocked up nine goals between them.

“Yes, it’s true that Morocco have been very strong in defence,” said Deschamps. “But they’re not just good at the back.

“They wouldn’t have reached the semi-finals if they were just a defensive team. They’ve shown other qualities.”

In the sixth game, Morocco have been stripped of the patronising tag of surprise package.

“I was asked if we can win the World Cup and I said: ‘Why not?'” said Regragui.

“We can dream, it doesn’t cost you anything to have dreams. European countries are used to winning the World Cup and we have played top European sides. Anyone playing us is going to be afraid of us.

“We’re going to fight to move on, for the African nations, for the Arab world,” he added.

Source: Modern Ghana

World Cup 2022: Morocco fans’ heartbreak as Doha flights cancelled

Hundreds of Moroccan football fans have been left devastated as last-minute flight cancellations look set to stop them from travelling to Qatar for Wednesday’s World Cup semi-final.

Morocco’s national airliner – Royal Air Maroc – had planned to run seven additional flights ahead of the game.

It made the decision after Morocco’s FA promised to give fans 13,000 free tickets to the clash with France.

But on Wednesday, it said Qatari officials had blocked the flights.

“Following the latest restrictions imposed by the Qatari authorities Royal Air Maroc regrets to inform customers of the cancellation of their flights operated by Qatar Airways,” the airline said in a statement to the Reuters news agency.

It is unclear why Qatari officials ordered the airline to stop the flights, and the government’s central communications office has yet to respond to a BBC request for comment.

In a post on its social media channels on Monday, the airline had offered to lay on 30 additional flights as part of “an exceptional flight schedule” to help fans get to Qatar.

But affiliated travel agencies later said there would be just seven extra flights.

The cancellations left a number of fans who had already booked tickets and hotel rooms out of pocket.

The airline offered a full apology and said it would reimburse passengers.

Meanwhile, a number of Moroccan expatriates have been arriving in Qatar, attracted by the promise of free tickets from the country’s FA.

Around five million Moroccans are estimated to live around the world, with many of them in France.

But as fans arrived at fan centres at the Al Janoub stadium – many covering their heads with their Moroccan flags and caps to protect themselves from the heat – they were left angered when the free tickets promised by the FA failed to materialise.

One supporter, Zineb Nfati, told the BBC she had travelled from Paris for the game but had been unable to find a ticket.

“This is a very symbolic game – it’s Morocco against France and I’m half-French, half-Moroccan,” she said.

“The problem is there are no reliable sources. There is no reliable information,” Ms Nfati said. “I came here with my brother and I don’t know what we’ll do… I’m heartbroken.”

The clash is the first time an African side have reached this stage of football’s biggest competition, though their French rivals are heavily tipped by pundits to advance to the final against Argentina.

But Morocco coach Walid Regragui – who grew up in Paris – says his side are confident and don’t want to “wait another 40 years for an African team” to shine on the world stage.

Source: Modern Ghana

Rev. Owusu Bempah, three others discharged again

Accra, Dec. 14, GNA- The Police has formally withdrawn the case in which Rev. Isaac Owusu Bempah, leader, Glorious Word Power Ministries and three others were accused of assaulting police officers and causing damage.

The case was earlier adjourned Sine die (indefinitely) by the court.

When the matter was called on Wednesday, Inspector Jonas Lawer who held brief, informed the court that the Police were formally withdrawing the matter.

He however did not give reasons for the withdrawal.

The Court presided over by Mrs Rosemary Baah Tosu then struck out the case and discharged the accused persons.

This is the second time Rev. Owusu Bempah, and others have been discharged by the Circuit Court.

He and six others were discharged by another Circuit Court recently after the Police told them they were putting “their house in order” to prosecute him before the High Court.

Rev. Owusu Bempah was standing trial with three others, namely, Michael Boateng, Frederick Ohene and Nathaniel Agyekum.

They were variously charged with offensive conduct, assault on Police officers and causing unlawful damage.

The accused persons who were said to have assaulted police officers tasked to invite Rev. Owusu Bempah to the police after a case of threat of death made against him have denied the charges.

They were on bail.

Source: Ghana News Agency