Morocco officially became the first in the 2018 World Cup to get eliminated after suffering a second loss. Despite that, the Atlas Lions left a great impression to the general public.
In the second game of the group-stage, Morocco had to grab at least a point against Portugal, the European champions. But the 4th minute header from Cristiano Ronaldo ended up being the only goal of the game, sending us home with two consecutive 1-0 losses.
But unlike the Iran game, where many were critical of Morocco’s performance and Hervé Renard’s tactical choices, most people could only praise the team after an impressive display against a great side. The defense had little to do, while our midfield completely dominated, which it had failed to do in the first game. But again, our lack of bite up front proved to be costly, as well as plenty of spilled chances from set-pieces.
Munir Mohand (6)
Very similar to the Iran game. Rarely forced into action and brilliantly saved the one dangerous shot he faced, when Gonçalo Guedes went through on goal. Not much he could’ve done about the goal.
Nabil Dirar (6)
Back in the team after missing the whole preparation phase as well as the first group game. Looked a bit rusty at times, giving away the ball too easily, but combined well with Amrabat on the right. Should’ve grabbed an assist in the first half. Kept his side quiet for most of the game defensively.
Medhi Benatia (7)
After a mediocre performance against Iran, the captain really stepped up in this one. It’s like he takes his game to another level when facing great opposition, which is a unique ability. Had four(!) good chances to score from corners and free-kicks, but it wasn’t to be.
Manuel da Costa (5)
Most people where in shock about his inclusion over Saïss and would get more gasoline to the bonfire after few minutes, when he completely lost Ronaldo in the box on the goal. Besides that though, he had a solid game, winning all of his aerial challenges. Still not as good on the ball as his centre-back colleagues, but didn’t do too bad.
Achraf Hakimi (5)
We have to give him some slack, playing in an unfamiliar position, but Hakimi just didn’t look comfortable in this game either. Gave away the ball way several times and struggled to get involved offensively, always having to drive inside with the ball on his preferred right foot. With that being said, Bernardo Silva, Guedes and Gelson Martins weren’t able to create much either on that side, which he deserves some credit for.
Mbark Boussoufa (6)
For some reason, I was told by numerous people that Boussoufa should’ve been on the bench after the poor display against Iran. This time, he was back to his normal self. Constantly getting the ball, switching the play and joining in attack. Almost scored early on after a great run into the box, but couldn’t get first on the ball.
Karim El Ahmadi (8)
The unsung hero of this team. Not the most skillful, but can’t remember him losing the ball a single time. Calm and collected in possession and did great in quickly dispossessing the Portuguese players when we lost the ball.
Hakim Ziyech (6)
A lot better than in the first game, but still not as convincing as we’ve been used to in qualification. Maybe all the pressure has got to him a bit, feeling like he needs to create something whenever he’s on the ball. At least that’s what it looked like. Saw more of the ball, but lost it too many times, trying to dribble two-three players in the middle of the park. But he also came to some good chances, almost scoring towards the end only to have his shot blocked in the last second.
Younès Belhanda (7)
One of our best performers over the last weeks. His return to peak international form has been great to see after years of underperforming. Looked so confident on the ball, spinning around his opponents and almost topped it off with a beautiful header that was saved brilliantly by Rui Patrício.
Nordin Amrabat (9 MOTM)
Despite suffering a concussion against Iran, he literally went to war, constantly battling with two players on the right wing and usually coming out on top. Was probably fouled about ten times by Raphaël Guerreiro, who couldn’t cope with Amrabat’s strength and pace. Could’ve had an assist to Ziyech and deserved to get something out of this game after a remarkable performance.
Khalid Boutaïb (3)
Ran a lot and tried his best, but it’s just not working for our strikers in this tournament. Boutaïb doesn’t have the pace or mobility to cause enough trouble for the Portugal defense and is probably short on confidence too, having yet to score a goal for club our country since March. Could’ve got a penalty in the first half when José Fonte recklessly pushed him in the back.
Ayoub El Kaabi (3)
Made no impact at all after coming on and I almost forgot that Boutaïb had been replaced at one point. Received the ball in dangerous position in one situation where he usually would’ve gone for goal instantly, but instead he brought it down and played it backwards, wasting the chance of becoming the hero.
Mehdi Carcela (5)
He definitely tried his best, but looked stressed and way too eager to impress. Could barely stay on his feet at times, but you can’t question his desire and effort.
Fayçal Fajr (N/A)
Came on with few minutes to go and wasn’t able to make an impact.