NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 02: Hatem Ben Arfa of Newcastle battles with Karim El Ahmadi of Aston Villa during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Aston Villa at Sports Direct Arena on September 2, 2012 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
2014 World Cup Qualification
National Team: Morocco
Also known as: Lions of the Atlas
Confederation: CAF (Confederation of African Football)
Opponents: Côte d'Ivoire, Tanzania, Gambia
Qualification thus far:
Played 2 matches: Gambia 1-1 Morocco; Morocco 2-2 Côte d'Ivoire
Next WC Qualifying match will be on 22 March 2013 at Tanzania
This week: Mozambique v. Morocco (2013 Africa Cup of Nations Final Qualifying Round [winner qualifies for ACON])
Key Players: Michaël Chrétien Basser, Houssine Kharja, Marouane Chamakh
Villans in Morocco: Karim El Ahmadi
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The Moroccan national team will not be participating in World Cup Qualifying this week, as the CAF spreads their system out a bit more than UEFA does. When they do return to World Cup qualifying, they will be looking to secure their first bid since 1998, where they went 1-1-1 in the group stage and did not qualify to advance. The Lions of the Atlas (what an awesome name), do not have an extended history in the cup, having only qualified four times, and only once advanced to the round of 16.
What the team will be playing for this week is a position in the final field of the Africa Cup of Nations. The Cup has been moved to be an every-other-year event on odd years rather than even. Thus, 2013 will be the second year in a row that the tournament has been contested. In 2004 the team placed second in the cup and won the competition in 1976.
The Moroccan team is neither very strong nor very weak, and are ranked 68th in the world right now. Karim El Ahmadi is obviously the big Villa link to the team, and he is one of their regularly featured players, having received 17 caps. He has not participated in the team's World Cup Qualifying matches, but he was named to the roster for this week's tilt against Mozambique. He is supposedly (going off of translated websites originally in French) reporting to the team's training camp in Portugal and will be given a medical evaluation there to see if his 73rd minute injury against Newcastle will keep him out of the match.
The match (on September 9) is the first in a two-leg battle to determine who will advance to the Africa Cup of Nations final. Kick off is at 1300 GMT/1000 Eastern.