CANADA VS. MOROCCO
Tuesday, October 11, 3 pm ET
Grand Stade de Marrakech, Marrakesh, Morocco
Canada got off to a blazing start in Morocco — but can they keep it up against the host nation?
Les Rouges, in their first game since the end of World Cup qualifying and departure of manager Benito Floro, danced to a 4-0 win over Mauritania in Marrakesh on Thursday. But the game against Morocco will provide a sterner test, and a much different atmosphere.
First off, the team can expect actual fans in the stands this time around. They can also expect that an experienced Moroccan side in the midst of their World Cup qualifying drive will come out with more of a spark than Mauritania.
While interim head coach Michael Findlay is using these friendlies to begin evaluating the player pool on the long road to Qatar 2022, Morocco is one month away from perhaps its most important game of the Russia 2018 qualification campaign.
All the same, players on both sides will be motivated to put on a good showing on the day, albeit for divergent reasons.
Canada and Morocco have met twice before, a 3-2 Morocco win in 1984 and a 1-1 draw in 1994.
Now, we could fall into the classic sports-analysis trap of pretending that those long-ago results will have any bearing whatsoever on this upcoming game, even though none of the players who’ll be involved on Tuesday were anywhere near international soccer way back when.
Or we could say that there is no meaningful history between the two teams, who’ll basically have a blank slate to work with.
After this one, Canada’s next confirmed game is at the CONCACAF Gold Cup next July. But the Canadian Soccer Association has expressed its desire to have this team play in every FIFA international window — and there are three of those between now and the Gold Cup, including one next month.
Though the Gold Cup represents Canada’s next meaningful matches (and its next opportunity to officially cap-tie players), there’s still plenty of information to be gleaned when it comes to setting the table for whoever takes over as the team’s next full-time manager.
We don’t know when that manager will be named, though it’ll likely come before Victor Montagliani relinquishes his role as CSA president, which will happen before May 2017. And without knowing who that is and what their vision is for the team, it’s tough to get a firm grasp on the team’s medium-term outlook.
So, until the dust settles in the aftermath of Canada’s elimination from 2018 World Cup contention, there’s not much to do beyond trying to have a bit of fun watching these friendlies.
The Moroccans are undefeated thus far in 2016, with four wins and three draws. One of those wins, a 2-0 defeat of Cape Verde in March, clinched their qualification for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations.
But their World Cup qualifying campaign hit a big-time snag on the weekend, as they could manage only a 0-0 road draw with Gabon in the opening game of the final round of qualifying in the African region.
Gabon (ranked No. 108 in the world) should be the weakest team in a group that features Morocco (No. 58), Mali (No. 55) and Ivory Coast (No. 34, the top-ranked African team). Only the winner of the group will qualify for the World Cup, a tournament Morocco hasn’t reached since France 1998.
Morocco’s next qualifier comes on Nov. 7 at home against Ivory Coast, a game that’s suddenly become a de facto must-win. Against Canada, they’ll be desperate to show the home crowd that they’ve got what it takes to stay competitive.
Canada – Tosaint Ricketts. Say what you will about the 29-year-old, but in his six years with the national team, he’s continued to find ways to put the ball in the back of the net. The Toronto FC man scored twice against Mauritania and could be looked upon to put pressure on the Moroccans.
Morocco – Yousef El-Arabi. The 29-year-old striker is currently plying his trade in Qatar, but has experience playing (and scoring) in both France and Germany. He’s the most prolific national-team scorer on the roster, with 15 goals, and led Morocco with three goals in Africa Cup of Nations qualifying.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Milan Borjan (PFK Ludogorets Razgrad/Bulgaria); Kenny Stamatopoulos (AIK Fotbol/Sweden); Simon Thomas (FK Bodø Glimt/Norway)
DEFENDERS (9): Fraser Aird (Vancouver Whitecaps); David Edgar (Vancouver Whitecaps); Manjrekar James (Vasas Budapest/Hungary); Doneil Henry (AC Horsens/Denmark); Marcel de Jong (Vancouver Whitecaps); Karl W. Ouimette (Jacksonville Armada); Adam Straith (Fredrikstad/Norway); Maxim Tissot (Ottawa Fury); Steven Vitoria (Lechia Gdansk/Poland)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Scott Arfield (Burnley/England); Marco Bustos (Vancouver Whitecaps); Jamar Dixon (Ottawa Fury); Junior Hoilett (unattached); Jonathan Osorio (Toronto FC); Samuel Piette (CD Izarra/Spain); Tosaint Ricketts (Toronto FC)
GOALKEEPERS (3): Munir Mohamedi (Numancia/Spain); Yassine Bounou (Girona/Spain); Yassine El Kharroubi (Lokomotiv Plovdiv/Bulgaria)
DEFENDERS (7): Achraf Lazaar (Newcastle United/England); Manuel Da Costa (Olympiakos/Greece); Fouad Chafik (Dijon/France); Faycal Rherras (Hearts/Scotland); Hamza Mendyl (Lille/France); Yunis Abdelhamid (Dijon/France); Jawad El Yamiq (Wydad/Morocco)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Mbark Boussoufa (Al Jazira/UAE); Younes Belhanda (Nice/France); Karim El Ahmadi (Feyenoord/Netherlands); Hakim Ziyech (Ajax/Netherlands); Romain Saiss (Wolves/England); Faycal Fajr (Deportivo La Coruna/Spain); Youssef Aït Bennasser (Nancy/France); Ismail Haddad (Wydad/Morocco); Rachid Aliouli (Nimes/France)
FORWARDS (7): Youssef El-Arabi (Lekhwiya/Qatar); Nordin Yamrabat (Watford/England); Mehdi Carcela-González (Granada/Spain); Oussama Tannane (Saint-Etienne/France); Aziz Bouhaddouz (St. Pauli/Germany); Khalid Boutaib (Strasbourg/France); Youssef En Nesyri (Malaga/Spain)
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