Morocco – Cote d’Ivoire Preview: Group C favourites to lock horn for supremacy

The Atlas Lions will endeavour to dominate the Elephants, but if they fail, their visitors will keep a stranglehold on the group and brighten their chances of qualification


Basser, Benatia, Zekroumi, Boukhriss
Saidi, El Ahmadi
Amrabat, Boussoufa, Barrada
El Arabi


Kolo, Gosso, Souleman, Tiene
Gradel, Bony, Tiote, Yaya
Drogba, Gervinho

Morocco are yet to get over their 1-1 draw against Gambia recorded last weekend in Bakau. The country’s sports minister has given firm instructions to coach Eric Gerets to make amends for the team’s unsatisfactory outing by defeating Cote d’Ivoire on Saturday in Marrakech.

However, with the Atlas Lions’ new playmaker, 22-year-old Younes Belhanda of Montpellier, set to miss the clash following an injury he picked up in the previous fixture, Gerets needs to be creative enough to get a subtle balance which should also cover the absence of other key players earlier dropped from the original roster, such as Arsenal’s Marouane Chamakh, Youssouf Hadji and Adel Taarabt.

The team was able to cope against Gambia without the services of Chretien Basser, Karmi El Ahmadi, Oussama Assaidi, who were rested due to injuries, but playing against the continent’s number one team probably needs a full house. However, the Belgian coach counts on the high motivation of his players, which he says will be enough to engage the Ivorians.

Cote d’Ivoire are currently leading Group C with three points and are very keen on consolidating that status with the hope of smoothing their path towards the Brazil 2014. New coach Sabri Lamouchi, who received mixed reviews after his 2-0 win over Tanzania in Abidjan, wants to confirm his competence and convince fans and officials he can do the job amid much doubt from many analysts.

With the African Footballer of the Year, Yaya Toure, likely to make his return against Morocco, the Elephants seem to be all set for the meeting, but the team evinced some weaknesses while playing the Taifa Stars, especially in the midfield and defence, which the Atlas Lions could exploit decisively.

  • Morocco and Cote d’Ivoire met last in 2006 during the Africa Cup of Nations held in Egypt. The Ivorians won 1-0.

  • Morocco were beaten at home in Marrakech last November by Uganda, 1-0 and Cameroon, 2-4 on penalties.

  • Morocco lost 10 points in the current Fifa ranking to land at 70th position.

  • Cote D’Ivoire fans are accusing captain Didier Drogba of being responsible for the sacking of former coach Francois Zahoui, but the player has said he knew nothing about it.

  • The Elephants' new coach Sabri Lamouchi will be paid €60,000 per month, two times as much as what Zahoui was earning.

  • The Ivorian team arrived in Marrakech on Wednesday ahead of Saturday’s encounter.