Football

5 Morocco players who could miss World Cup semi-final


Morocco’s journey through to the World Cup semi-final has been historic.

Walid Regragui’s side bested Belgium and Croatia to finish top of Group F, toppled 2010 winners Spain in the round of 16 and then downed Euro 2016 winners Portugal by the odd goal to become the first African nation to ever reach the final four.

The Atlas Lions have incredibly conceded just one goal in their five World Cup outings so far, and now have a mouthwatering semi-final tie with France to look forward to. But the delirium of reaching this stage of the tournament has been tempered, only slightly, by a number of knocks, injuries and suspensions to key players.

Here’s who could miss out against Didier Deschamps’ side.

Nayef Aguerd picked up a thigh injury against Spain

Nayef Aguerd picked up a thigh injury against Spain / Fantasista/GettyImages

There was disappointment for central defender Nayef Aguerd as he limped out of the round of 16 win over Spain with a thigh problem.

Aguerd is believed to have suffered a ‘low grade muscle tear’ and he was unable to play any part in the win over Portugal. The setback is the latest disappointment for West Ham’s £30m summer signing, after he underwent surgery at the beginning of the season having been injured against Rangers in a pre-season friendly.

His chances of playing against France are slim.

Romain Saiss knew his race was run against Portugal

Romain Saiss knew his race was run against Portugal / Alex Grimm/GettyImages

How Romain Saiss was fit to face Portugal, only he will know.

Sadly, the former Wolves defender’s rushed return to the side ended prematurely as the hamstring complaint that troubled him against Spain reared its ugly head again.

The battle to be fit is now on, with his experience and leadership key to organising Morocco’s backline.

Noussair Mazraoui

Noussair Mazraoui in action against Spain / BSR Agency/GettyImages

Another absentee from the win over Portugal, Noussair Mazraoui was initially hurt during the group stage clash with Croatia.

The Bayern Munich summer signing featured against Spain in the round of 16, but wasn’t fit enough to face Fernando Santos’ Portugal because of an ongoing issue with his hip flexor.

The injury isn’t believed to be serious, but the quick turnaround in games could make it difficult for him to line up against France.

Hakim Ziyech took a couple of kicks against Portugal

Hakim Ziyech took a couple of kicks against Portugal / ANP/GettyImages

One player Morocco will be desperate to have at 100% is playmaker Hakim Ziyech – the undisputed star in Regragui’s attack.

The Chelsea playmaker was withdrawn after 82 minutes against Portugal as Morocco looked to see out the game, but had taken a couple of kicks during the match.

His substitution was likely a combination of tactical changes and a precautionary measure, which could see Ziyech fit and firing by the time Morocco are lining up for kick-off against France.

Walid Cheddira is sent off by referee Facundo Tello

Walid Cheddira was sent off by referee Facundo Tello / Alexander Hassenstein/GettyImages

One player definitely ruled out of the semi-final against France is Walid Cheddira, after he saw red for two late yellow cards against Portugal.

That means an automatic one-match ban that can’t be appealed – a heavy price to pay for what was a clumsy, unnecessary tackle on Joao Felix late on.

Harry Symeou hosts Andy Headspeath, Quentin Gesp and Jack Gallagher to look back on the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia – join us!

If you can’t see the podcast embed, click here to download or listen to the episode in full!



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