Morocco AFCON 2023 Preview and Predicted XI: World Cup semi-finalists to go one better

Morocco are competing in their 19th Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), aiming to win it for just the second time after being crowned champions in 1976.

They are the highest-ranked African nation in the world in terms of FIFA rankings (13th), and became the first African team to reach the semi-finals of a FIFA World Cup in 2022 in Qatar, so are considered among the favourites to bring the trophy home.

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How did Morocco qualify for AFCON?

Morocco qualified in first place from a group which contained South Africa and Liberia. Zimbabwe were also drawn into the group, but were disqualified, so the Moroccans only played four qualifying games instead of six.

They won three and lost one match in Group K, finishing on nine points, scoring eight goals and conceding three. Sevilla's Youssef En-Nesyri and Olympiacos' Ayoub El Kaabi finished as their top scorers on two goals each.

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Morocco AFCON 2023 Preview

Who will Morocco play at AFCON 2023?

Morocco were drawn in Group F alongside DR Congo, Zambia and Tanzania – a group that we expect them to win.

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DR Congo

Since forming in the late 90s after competing as Zaire, DR Congo have qualified for their 10th AFCON, with their best finish being third place in 1998 and 2015. They progressed from a tight qualifying group, with only six points separating them, Mauritania, Gabon and Sudan.

Morocco have played them 14 times, and have generally come out on top, winning five, drawing eight and losing only once. Placed 67th in the FIFA rankings, DR Congo will likely be their toughest group opponents, but the Moroccans should be confident of overcoming them.

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Zambia will be competing in their 18th AFCON, after producing one of the biggest shocks in its history by winning it in 2012, as they sensationally beat an Ivory Coast team in the final, which was full of that era's most prolific footballing icons like Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure.

In qualifying, they also finished above the Ivorians, despite ranking 34 places below them (84th) in the FIFA rankings, and will certainly be no pushovers despite seeding third in the group. Like DR Congo, Morocco have played Zambia 14 times before, winning eight, drawing twice and losing on four occasions.

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Tanzania have qualified for only their second-ever AFCON, with their first qualification coming in 2019. They came second in their qualifying group behind Algeria, beating Uganda and Niger to the finals.

Placed 121st in the FIFA rankings, Tanzania are the second-lowest ranked team in the tournament, and so will be expected to crash out at the group stage. Morocco have faced them five times, winning on four occasions and losing just once.

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How far will Morocco go?

Morocco are the joint-second favourites (7/1) to win AFCON 2023, and so we expect them to be able to go on and lift the trophy, or at least make the final.

However, should they win their group, they will be expected to face a tough opponent in the round of 16. Based on our predictions and draw seedings, that would be any of hosts Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon, Burkina Faso or Mali. Nonetheless, the 2022 World Cup semi-finalists should be confident of beating anyone on their day.

Morocco – Predicted AFCON 2023 XI

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Morocco's goalkeeper for AFCON 2023 is likely to be Yassine Bounou, who boasts 58 caps for the national team. He was a hero at the 2022 World Cup, making two saves in the round of 16 penalty shoot-out win over Spain, and kept four clean sheets, the most of any goalkeeper in Qatar.

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Morocco's full-backs will likely be Achraf Hakimi and Noussair Mazraoui, who play for European giants PSG and Bayern Munich respectively. Nayef Aguerd will likely partner captain Romain Saiss at the heart of the defence, with the latter holding the joint-third most caps for the national team with 79.

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Anchoring Morocco's midfield is likely to be Sofyan Amrabat and Azzedine Ounahi, the pair so impressive at the 2022 World Cup. Ounahi's Marseille team-mate Amine Harit will likely play ahead of them in a central attacking midfield role.

Hakim Ziyech of Morocco during the FIFA World Cup
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Leading the line will likely be Youssef En-Nesyri, who has 17 goals in 65 appearances for his country. Either side of him should be Hakim Ziyech, who boasts 21 goals for Morocco, and exciting Bayer Leverkusen forward Amine Adli.

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Adam Clancy

Adam is a lead writer on Football Whispers. He is a big Arsenal fan, and also follows his local club Wealdstone, made famous by The Wealdstone Raider, of whom he has interviewed. Adam also follows darts, boxing, cricket and tennis, among many other sports.