Having already impressed as a second-half substitute in Morocco’s first two games at UAE 2013 against Croatia and Uzbekistan, Younes Bnou Marzouk was intent on making an even bigger mark when he was handed a start in their final group outing against Panama.
In conversation with FIFA.com, the live-wire Juventus forward took up the story: “I was determined to do well when I went out on the pitch, and I felt even more determined after Panama opened the scoring. I wasn’t going to let us lose that game and I put everything I had into turning it around.”
Bnou Marzouk did just that, waltzing his way to a superb first-half equaliser and putting his side ahead with another fine strike ten minutes later. By the time the final whistle had sounded, the Moroccans had eased to a 4-2 win and first place in Group C.
Describing his hunger to succeed, the Atlas Lion Cub said: “My main objective was to help my team. We really wanted to win that game to finish first in the group and set up a tie against one of the best third-placed teams. I also wanted to remind my coach I was there, that I was up for it and that he could rely on me.”
A man with a mission
“We want to reach the final and win it,” he added, looking further ahead. “I’ve come here with the idea of being the top scorer in the competition and the best player too. Anything is possible.”
Unlike most of his peers, who are a little reserved when it comes to discussing their personal goals, Bnou Marzouk speaks assertively and with a glint in his eye, as if certain of his destiny.
That faith in his own ability was reflected when he scored his first goal against Los Canaleros. No sooner had the ball hit the back of the net than the striker pulled a small Moroccan flag out from one of his socks and began to wave it around proudly, a well-planned celebration that revealed how confident he was about getting on the scoresheet. “It was a message for my family, my best friend and all the people close to me in my neighbourhood in Farebersviller, near Metz,” he explained.
Though very much attached to his family and the French club that discovered him, Bnou Marzouk had no hesitation in leaving it all behind him and signing for the Turin giants. I'd spent three years at Metz,” he said, “and I was with them when I got called up for the U-17 African championships in Morocco, which is where Juve saw me and went out of their way to sign me.”
He added: “It wasn’t an easy choice for me, but I wanted to move up a level. I said to myself that if I stayed at Metz, I’d carry on making progress, but not as fast as I would at Juve.”
When asked if he is not concerned about going too fast too soon, he shrugged his shoulders and said: “There’s always a risk that you won’t get a game and you’ll end up in the third division. But you can’t put barriers up for yourself. You have to aim as high as you can. I’d be lying to you if I said that I didn’t want to be a big star, a great footballer.”
“A lot of French players have succeeded there [at Juventus],” he continued. “Didier Deschamps, Zinedine Zidane and David Trezeguet all had great careers there, and I just say to myself that there’s no reason why I can’t too.”
When it was pointed out to him that his illustrious predecessors had already achieved plenty by the time they went to Serie A, the high-flying Moroccan forward nonchalantly replied: “They went later than me, that’s true, but having a head start will maybe help me go even further than they did.”
Now under the care of Juventus reserve-team coach Andrea Zanchetta and his assistant Fabio Grosso, a world champion with Italy in 2006, the Bianconeri fledgling has made a convincing start to his new career in Italy. “I’ve scored six goals in seven games with the reserves and I’ve trained a few times with the first team,” he explained. “I used to play in a wide position but they’ve got me at centre-forward. As long as I keep working at it, I think I can be a great player there.”
Discussing the little details that set Juventus apart from most other clubs, he said: “Everyone’s out on the pitch an hour before training starts. And it’s the same afterwards too. They’re winners and everyone works really hard.”
An admirer of Ronaldinho, Lionel Messi and Falcao, Bnou Marzouk now knows what is required if he is to make the step up to the top and become one of the greats. In the meantime, though, comes the more immediate task of earning a place in the Moroccan front line for Tuesday’s Round-of-16 tie against Côte d’Ivoire, a game that could well see this hungry Lion Cub show his claws once more.