In front of a great Casablanca crowd, Morocco all but sealed qualification for next year’s AFCON against the coming hosts.
We all knew what was at stake. Morocco needed to beat Cameroon for the first time ever in order to take a huge leap towards the AFCON next summer. As a matter of fact, the Atlas Lions had yet to win against the Indomitable Lions in 11 games between the two. However, with new manager-duo Clarence Seedorf and Patrick Kluivert already planning for the summer, as well as our home-advantage, it was definitely a huge opportunity to break the statistics.
The game didn’t really start too well for Morocco as Cameroon came out in full speed and should’ve taken the lead through Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting early on. But they pulled through and as the first half went on, we saw a home team taking control, creating some decent opportunities. Hakim Ziyech looked especially lively and could’ve scored twice before the break.
And it was THAT man who broke the deadlock in the 55th minute. Sofiane Boufal had come on and was pushed inside the box, which meant yet another goal from the spot for Ziyech. He later scored his second of the night, again with Boufal involved, as Morocco dominated the last 30 minutes.
Overall a solid display against a talented opponent. Now we turn to Tunisia for a Maghreb derby against our neighbors. But first – here are the player ratings (1-10):
Yassine Bounou (7)
I’ve been crying out for Bounou and finally Renard listened. Had a great save in the first half and looked good the few times he was called upon. He’s played four official games for Morocco and has yet to concede a goal!
Noussair Mazraoui (5)
Great to see him getting his full debut. Had a tough time defensively, coming up against Karl Toko Ekambi and the aforementioned Choupo-Moting, making some dangerous fouls. But offensively he ran tirelessly and gave Amrabat the opportunity to come inside.
Marouane Da Costa (4)
Once he had Benatia beside him, Da Costa looked better than he has previously. But there’s still something not fully working, despite him doing well for one of the best clubs in Turkey at the moment. The possession-based, high-pressing style of Renard might not suit him, as he still looks very uncomfortable on the ball and struggles with balls in behind.
Medhi Benatia (7)
He has made some questionable decisions in relation to the national team over the years, but Benatia remains invaluable to this side. The whole team looks more solid the second he steps into that defense and there was not the panic we saw in both games against Comoros. Marked his 60th appearance in style!
Achraf Hakimi (6)
This boy is improving so quickly, it’s almost as if you can see a change from game to game at the moment. Looks a lot more comfortable on the left than what he did a few months ago, running up and down constantly, almost grabbing a goal from it. Still needs to improve his positioning defensively, but there’s so much more to be excited about!
Karim El Ahmadi (5)
Mr. Reliable came in with a saving tackle to disturb Choupo-Moting and his presence can not be underestimated. With that being said, he did look a little slower on the ball and wasn’t as convincing as he normally is defensively.
Fayçal Fajr (4)
Maybe I’m being a bit too harsh here, as he didn’t really do that much wrong. But for a guy who has looked like a million the last few months, I was a tad disappointed. He’s supposed to be the guy who dictates the play from a deep playmaking-role, but things were going too slow whenever he was on the ball.
Nordin Amrabat (5)
Typical Amrabat game. Always wanted the ball and ran down to the touchline over and over, with no real end product. If only he knew how to cross… Maybe it’s time to give others a chance in games where we have most of the possession. Unfortunately for Nordin, he’s a bigger threat in a counter-attacking style of football.
Younès Belhanda (4)
Played the first half only, as he had to go off with an injury during the break. Didn’t really see much of the ball and when he had it, not much happened. Hopefully he’s in better shape for the games next year.
Hakim Ziyech (8 MOTM)
He’s just too good at the moment, isn’t he? Hard to find more superlatives to describe Ziyech’s performances lately. Scored his 11th and 12th international goal and always looked like the biggest threat on the ball. It’s clear that opponents have gained a lot more respect for the Ajax star with all the tackles and constant marking of him.
Khalid Boutaïb (2)
Yet another uninspiring display from Boutaïb, who seems to stay as our preferred forward only because of his physical size and ability to hold on to the ball. The problem is that he very rarely manages to do just that. Strange movement inside the box, no communication with his offensive colleagues by the looks of it and way too many lost challenges. Walid Azaro might not fit Renard’s profile, but something needs to change on that striker position.
Sofiane Boufal (7)
This is the Boufal we want to see. Does his defensive work, combines well with his teammates and is always hard to deal with for the opponent’s defense. Two indirect assists for him tonight and created a headache for Renard ahead of upcoming games.
Youssef En-Nesyri (5)
Runs a lot as always, but still needs to work on his decision-making both on and off the ball, much like his fellow AMF graduate, Hamza Mendyl. Would still prefer him over Boutaïb at the moment though.
Youssef Aït Bennasser (N/A)
Came on in the 90th minute with no time to make an impact.