By Mark Gleeson
By Mark Gleeson
JOHANNESBURG, January 18, 2013 (Reuters)
Morocco cannot afford another disastrous African Nations Cup finals campaign after last year’s premature exit, midfielder Younes Belhanda said on Wednesday.
“We have no right to fail this time round. We have a debt to the Moroccan people after what happened at the last tournament,” the 22-year-old told reporters three days before the team’s opening match against Angola at Soccer City.
Morocco were among the pre-tournament favorites at last year’s tournament in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon but crashed out early after losing their opening two group matches.
“There is a better realization now of how important it is to do well. Our coach has been drumming this into us,” Belhanda added at a brief media conference.Rachid Taoussi, who took over from the Belgian Eric Gerets in September, said he had sought to create a better spirit and solidarity in the side since taking over.
Morocco, despite a squad of much talent and potential, made a poor start to their World Cup qualifying campaign last June and were 2-0 down to Mozambique after the first leg of their decisive Nations Cup qualifier in September that hastened Gerets’ exit.
Taoussi engineered a 4-0 comeback in the second leg to help the team qualify and has seen his side win, draw and lose in three subsequent friendlies.
Morocco arrived in South Africa just after New Year to begin their preparations for the tournament, where they also face hosts South Africa and the Cape Verde Islands in their group.
“We have been waiting for this Nations Cup to make up for the last time. We have had a quiet and productive build-up,” added Belhanda.