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Atlas Lions’ Coach to Summon 14 Players From Morocco’s Botola

Vahid Halilhodzic’s list, mostly composed of local players, will see the return of some players to the Atlas Lions’ squad.

Rabat – The Moroccan national football team’s new coach, Vahid Halilhodzic, is due to  announce his list of players for the Atlas Lions’ upcoming games. The list will include 14 players from Morocco’s local football league “Botola,” according to newspaper Al Ahdath Al Maghribia.

The  players on the coach’s squad list will participate in a training period, before Morocco’s games against Mauritania, on November 15, and Burundi, on November 19, for the 2021 African Cup of Nations (CAN) Qualifiers.

Reports say that the majority of local players on Halilhodzic’s list are from Casablanca’s teams, Wydad and Raja. The list is said to include six players from Wydad Casablanca (Achraf Dari, Mohamed Nahiri, Yahya Jabrane, Badii Ouk, Ismail El Haddad, and Oualid El Karti), and four players from Raja Casablanca (Anas Zniti, Badr Benoun, Hamid Ahaddad, and Omar Boutayeb).

The Bosnian coach’s rumored decision to summon such a large number of local players comes only a few weeks after his controversial statements criticizing them. During a press conference, Halilhodzic said that “the difference between players from Morocco’s Botola players and players from European teams is obvious.”

“If we compare Achraf Hakimi, for example, to local players, it feels like Hakimi plays football while others are playing something different,” he added.

A few days after the statement, Moroccan local players proved that the Bosnian’s words are not true, through an impressive win 3-0 against Algeria when the team qualified for the 2020 African Nations Championship (CHAN) – the CAN equivalent for teams made entirely of local players.

The exceptional number of local players isn’t the only novelty in Halilhodzic’s list. According to the same source, the Atlas Lions’ coach will also call up strikers Abderrazak Hamdallah and Youssef El Arabi.

Hamdalllah hasn’t played with the national squad since his controversial departure from the Atlas Lions’ training camp days before the start of CAN 2019, despite his impressive performances with his Saudi club Al-Nassr.

El Arabi’s last game with the Moroccan team dates back to January 2017 for the CAN. He hasn’t been summoned to play for Morocco since then. However, the striker is having a great start to the season with his Greek club Olympiakos. El Arabi scored seven goals in 13 appearances this season.

As the upcoming fixtures are the first official games for the Atlas Lions under Halilhodzic, the coach is facing a lot of pressure from the public to build a strong team, capable of being one of the best in Africa.