Morocco happy to be Dutch rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Rus­sia

The Sun (Malaysia) - - FRONT PAGE -

MOROCCO coach Herve Re­nard has wel­comed the sup­port of Louis van Gaal as fans in the Nether­lands rally be­hind his squad – con­tain­ing five Dutch-born play­ers – at the World Cup.

The At­las Lions be­gin their first World Cup cam­paign for 20 years against Iran in Saint Peters­burg to­day.

But Re­nard has had to make the most of the Moroc­can di­as­pora in Eu­rope to get Morocco back on the big­gest stage, with 17 of the 23-man squad born out­side the coun­try.

The Nether­lands’ fail­ure to qual­ify means Morocco have be­come the adopted side of many i n Hol l a n d , wi t h f o r mer Manch­ester United and Barcelona boss Van Gaal per­son­ally send­ing his sup­port to Re­nard and his squad yes­ter­day.

“This morn­ing I re­ceived the mes­sage. Of course I was very happy, very proud for Morocco and for my­self, be­cause he’s a big coach,” said Re­nard.

“We know why your coun­try is sup­port­ing a lot Morocco. We have some play­ers who could play for your na­tional team and we are proud to have them in our team.”

The most promis­ing of Morocco’s five-strong Dutch-born con­tin­gent is Ajax mid­fielder Hakim Ziyech (pix), who was once called up by the Nether­lands be­fore de­cid­ing to rep­re­sent Morocco.

Hakim won the Ere­di­visie player of the year last sea­son and Re­nard hopes the World Cup gives him the stage to win a big-money move to a top Euro­pean league.

“I wish him all the best to find the best club pos­si­ble be­cause he has all the tal­ent to do that,” said Re­nard.

“He is a very im­por­tant player for us and for a coach like me it is fan­tas­tic to have a player with this skill. “There are not a lot of play­ers with this tal­ent. He can see a lot of things be­fore other play­ers (can). “In one word, he is a fan­tas­tic player.” Re­nard has carved out a rep­u­ta­tion as a spe­cial­ist in African foot­ball, win­ning the African Na­tions Cup with Zam­bia and the Ivory Coast be­fore lead­ing Morocco back to the big­gest stage. H i s ex­pe­ri­ences i n club foot­ball have been less suc­cess­ful in short spells in France with Sochaux and Lille and Cam­bridge United in Eng­land.

How­ever, he said he and his team will not set­tle for just mak­ing it to the World Cup.

“I’m a be­gin­ner but I have to live this ex­pe­ri­ence with a lot of in­ten­sity.

“We are not here to take pic­tures of mon­u­ments in St. Peters­burg, we are here to com­pete,” he said.

“It will be a ques­tion of mak­ing the most of the few chances we will get,” Re­nard said.

“We will be tough, and that’s for sure,” Al Jazira’s Mbark Bous­so­ufa said.

He will op­er­ate in a mid­field that is con­fi­dent in pos­ses­sion and ca­pa­ble of pro­vid­ing good sup­ply into the op­po­si­tion penalty area, where the want of a high-cal­i­bre fin­isher is a con­cern.

Re­nard needs an el­e­ment of sur­prise, for his solid Morocco not to be­come too pre­dictable, or that op­po­nents sup­pose they can be closed down largely by suf­fo­cat­ing the cre­ative Ziyech. – AFP/ Agen­cies

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