Morocco FA boss Lekjaa reveals coach Halilhodzic was sacked for alienating Atlas Lions players

Vahid Halilhodzic - Hakim Ziyech - Noussair Mazraoui - moroccogoal

Vahid Halilhodzic’s tendency to alienate players from the national team is the reason for his dismissal as Morocco national team coach.

This was revealed by Morocco FA boss Faouzi Lekjaa while explaining why the Franco-Bosnian tactician was shown the door on Thursday, just three months before the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

“The national team cannot exclude high-level Moroccan players who play in teams all over the world, whatever the reason, that was how the fans and players felt,” Lekjaa said during an interview with Spanish outlet EFE.

“[The players and the public] did not understand the reason for excluding players who participated with the national team for six or seven years, depriving them of representing the national team for this round,” he added.

“There was also a neglect in enhancing the players’ association with their technical team and motivating them to give their best, which is the coach’s primary role.

“This generated a feeling of indifference. In a brotherly atmosphere, it was necessary to explain to Vahid that Moroccans are getting tired of his approach. It was necessary for everyone to go their own way with their heads held high in this period of important victories.”

Since his appointment in 2019, Halilhodzic has had a frosty relationship with a number of players, with Chelsea winger Hakim Ziyech the high-profile name. He angered Atlas Lions supporters when he omitted Ziyech from the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations squad.

The two fell out in September 2021 when he accused Ziyech of a ‘bad attitude and feigning an injury’, which did not go down well with the former Ajax star, who retired from international football, vowing never to play for his country again as long as the coach was still in charge.

Halilhodzic also fell out with Schalke 04 midfielder Amine Harit and Bayern Munich full-back Noussair Mazraoui before recalling them into the squad ahead of June’s 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.

Lekjaa has promised to name Halilhodzic’s successor this month with speculation linking former Wydad Casablanca coach Walid Regragui to the job. Whoever they settle on has high-performance targets.

“In addition to preparing the national team for the World Cup, our goals are clear: a qualification for the World Cup and the African Cup of Nations is not negotiable,” Lekjaa added.

“Since we are the second team in Africa [behind Senegal, according to the Fifa ranking[, we must reach the final of the African Nations Cup. We have a year to prepare for this event, which will take place in January 2024 in Ivory Coast.”

Halilhodzic, who joined Morocco in August 2019, led them to the quarter-finals of the 2021 Afcon in Cameroon before sealing their ticket to the World Cup where they are in Group F alongside Croatia, Belgium and Canada.

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