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Morocco keen to lift ‘curse’ of Africa Cup of Nations

Morocco coach Walid Regragui said he wants his team to break “the curse of the African Cup” as he named his 27-man squad for next month’s Africa Cup of Nations on Thursday. 

It is 47 years since Morocco last won the continental competition but after reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup in Qatar last year, they are now one of the favourites to win the title in Ivory Coast.

“The more African competitions take place, the further away we get from the date when we won it,” said Regragui. 

“But that’s no reason to put pressure on ourselves. We’re going to go there to play our football, to give it the maximum, and, above all, not to have regrets.”

Since winning the cup in 1976, Morocco have only reached the final once, in 2004 when they lost to hosts Tunisia.

At the last edition in Cameroon in 2022, they lost to Egypt in the quarter-finals. 

“What is important is the state of mind,” said Regragui. 

“We must go there with complete confidence to overcome the curse of the African Cup.”

Regragui has retained the bulk of his World Cup squad, who beat Belgium, Spain and Portugal before falling to a 2-0 defeat by France in the semis, including Paris Saint-Germain defender Achraf Hakimi, Sevilla’s Youssef En-Nesyri and Manchester United midfielder Sofyan Amrabat.

But he has also brought in younger talents  — for “good balance between the present and the future”, he said — such as PSV’s Ismael Saibari and Real Betis defender Chadi Riad, who won this year’s Under-23 AFCON.

The Atlas Lions will face DR Congo, Tanzania, and Zambia in the group stages when the tournament gets underway on January 13.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Yassine Bounou (Al Hilal/KSA), Mounir El Kajoui (Al-Wehda/KSA), El Mehdi Benabid (AS FAR).

Defenders: Achraf Hakimi (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA), Mohamed Chibi (Pyramids/EGY), Abdelkabir Abqar (Deportivo Alaves/ESP), Romain Saiss (Al-Shabab/KSA), Nayef Aguerd (West Ham/ENG), Yunis Abdelhamid (Rennes/FRA), Chadi Riad (Real Betis/ESP), Noussair Mazraoui (Bayern Munich/GER), Yahia Attiat Allah (Wydad Casablanca).

Midfielders: Bilal El Khannouss (Genk/BEL), Azzeddine Ounahi (Marseille/FRA), Oussama El Azzouzi (Bologna/ITA), Sofyan Amrabat (Manchester United/ENG), Selim Amallah (Valencia/ESP), Amir Richardson (Reims/FRA), Hakim Ziyech (Galatasaray/TUR), Amine Harit (Marseille/FRA), Sofiane Boufal (Al-Rayyan).

Forwards: Ismael Saibari (PSV Eindhoven/NED), Amine Adli (Bayer Leverkusen/GER), Ayoub El Kaabi (Olympiacos/GRE), Youssef En-Nesyri (Sevilla/ESP), Tarik Tissoudali (Gent/BEL), Abdessamad Ezzalzouli (Real Betis/ESP).

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