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History makers Morocco to begin World Cup qualifying against Eritrea

Published : Wednesday, 20 September, 2023 at 12:00 AM  Count : 164

JOHANNESBURG, SEPT 19: World Cup history makers Morocco will host minnows Eritrea -- 181 places lower in the FIFA rankings -- when they start their quest for a place at the 2026 tournament.
The first two of 10 matchdays in Africa are scheduled for November 13-21 and, after Eritrea, the first semi-finalists from Africa face a potentially tricky visit to improving Tanzania.
Last December in Qatar, Morocco became only the third country outside of Europe and South America to reach the World Cup semi-finals, emulating the United States and South Korea.
They shocked Belgium and held Croatia in the group stage, then eliminated Spain and Portugal in knockout matches before falling to France.
In 16 pre-Qatar World Cup matches spanning five tournaments, the north Africans had won only two and suffered nine defeats.
Morocco were given little chance of surviving the first round in Qatar, especially after a late change of coaches with local Walid Regragui succeeding Bosnian Vahid Halilhodzic.
But Yassine Bounou, Achraf Hakimi, Sofyan Amrabat, Hakim Ziyech and Youssef en-Nesyri inspired their teammates to defy the odds.
Apart from Eritrea and Tanzania, Morocco will face Zambia, Congo Brazzaville and Niger in Group E, with the team topping the final standings qualifying for the finals.
Morocco should justify being the top seeds in the mini-league, which stretches from November to October 2025, with Patson Daka-inspired Zambia and Tanzania probably the biggest threats.    �AFP

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