Atlas Lions, News

Player ratings: Morocco 0-1 Argentina

On a windy night in Tangier, the Atlas Lions lost to an uninspiring Argentina side in what was a dreadful game of football.

It was supposed to be a night to remember at the Stade Ibn Batouta. Lionel Messi, Sergio Agüero, Ángel di María… But one after the other pulled out of the game and when Hakim Ziyech, Nordin Amrabat and Youssef En-Nesyri were missing for the hosts as well, the lack of quality definitely showed on the pitch.

I still can’t wrap my head around how you can leave a whole side of a stadium completely open in a city like Tangier, with the sea only a few kilometers away. So with a late night kick-off, the wind was ruining the whole first half. But despite that, Morocco did well enough in possession and won their battles in midfield. I especially enjoyed the intensity of some our players, namely Khalid Boutaïb, Mbark Boussoufa and Karim El Ahmadi, all winning a lot of physical challenges.

But the chances were few. Apart from a few dangerous crosses, none of the sides were able to create anything of notice, in neither halves of the game. Substitute Ángel Correa came on to score a goal, basically out of nowhere and that was that. A terrible game of football had come to an end.

Yassine Bounou (6)
Despite the heavy wind, he was still confident enough to play at from the back and solved it impressively. Had no problems with Argentina’s crosses either. Couldn’t do anything about the goal.

Noussair Mazraoui (6 MOTM)
Despite having only three international appearances, Mazraoui plays like he’s been in the game for years. Kept Rodrigo De Paul quiet throughout and provided much needed width offensively. Quickly becoming a complete full-back.

Medhi Benatia (6)
Didn’t look out of it at all, despite leaving Europe for his “Islamic culture trip” to Qatar. Still our captain, commanding his teammates and winning challenges both in the air and on the ground. The goal we conceded came after he had been taken off.

Ghanem Saïss (5)
The birthday boy didn’t have his best game. More bad passes than usual and was caught out of position on Argentina’s lone goal. But will give him some slack due to the conditions.

Marouane da Costa (5)
Few players are better than Da Costa when it comes to 50-50 challenges and you will struggle against him in the air. Only thing I have against him is the lack of ability in possession and his speed. But in a five-at-the-back formation he does work better.

Achraf Hakimi (5)
Played with a lot of energy but certainly not the Hakimi we saw last year. Needs to improve physically and has a lot of work to do on his positioning.

Karim El Ahmadi (6)
Mr. Reliable is still Mr. Reliable, whether he plays in England, Netherlands or Saudi Arabia. You can see his experience in the way he positions himself. It’s like he knows where the ball will end up. Will be our shield in-front of the defense in yet another AFCON.

Mbark Boussoufa (6)
Uplifting performance from the experienced maestro. 34 years of age, just found a club in Saudi Arabia after enjoying Dubai as a free agent for months, yet he still delivers. Constantly on the ball, dictating the play and puts his body on the line in every single challenge. Did lose the ball a fair few times, but still one of our better performers. Should’ve had a penalty in the second half.

Younès Belhanda (4)
A vintage Belhanda international performance. He seems to have these games every now and then when he just fades away and you barely notice that he’s actually on the pitch. Got himself a yellow card for arguing with an opponent and that was about it.

Sofiane Boufal (5)
Boufal will always give his opponents something to think about with his runs, which is what I like about him. Just a shame that he’s still nowhere near effective enough. Provoked five-six fouls which gave us opportunities from set-pieces, but the last the ball a number of times as well.

Khalid Boutaïb (5)
I’ve been one of Boutaïb’s biggest critics over the years, but for this game I’ll cut him some slack. Almost impossible conditions to work with, considering the wind and the system we played. Looked isolated for most of the game, having to battle against three Argentinians on his own. Ran a lot, pressed their midfield constantly and he even held on to the ball a few times.

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