Morocco’s FIFA World Cup™ qualifying debut came in the preliminaries for Chile 1962. At the time Africa had no guaranteed berths in the finals, which meant that even after beating their continental opponents, the Atlas Lions had to face a European side in a two-legged play-off. Defeated 4-2 by Spain on that occasion, the Moroccans would enjoy better luck eight years later, when they overcame Tunisia, Nigeria and Sudan in three keenly contested ties to advance to Mexico 1970. In the qualifiers for Germany 1974 they made it all the way to the final round, where they fell to Zaire. A first-round exit followed on the road to Argentina 1978, and in the race for places at Spain 1982 the Moroccans fell at the final hurdle again, this time against Cameroon. Inspired by Aziz Bouderbala, they returned to the world elite at Mexico 1986, 16 years after their first appearance, overcoming Egypt and Libya in a taxing campaign. Following another first-round elimination in the Italy 1990 qualifiers, they clinched a place at USA 1994 and France 1998, which was their last FIFA World Cup appearance to date.
FIFA World Cup finals history
The most memorable of Morocco’s four world-finals campaigns was Mexico 1986, when they became the first African nation to negotiate their way through the first round. That pioneering side was coached by Jose Faria and topped a tough Group F after beating Portugal and securing draws against England and Poland. Their run came to an end with a 1-0 defeat to West Germany in the Round of 16. Their three other appearances all ended in the first round, the cruellest of those exits coming at France 1998, where they beat Scotland in their final game only for Norway to pip them to second place in the group with a shock defeat of Brazil.
The current crop
On the slide in recent years, Morocco are gradually restoring their reputation, thanks in the main to the efforts of their former coach Eric Gerets. The ex-Marseille man oversaw an impressive bid to qualify for the 2012 CAF Africa Cup of Nations, the Moroccans having missed out on a finals slot in 2010. They were eliminated during the group stage and Rachid Taoussi was handed the reins in September 2012.
The key players
Youssouf Hadji, Marouane Chamakh, Youssef El Arabi, Mounir El Hammoudi, Adel Taarabt.
Coach: Rachid Taoussi
Best performance in a FIFA competition: FIFA U-20 World Cup Netherlands 2005 (Fourth place)
Former stars: Badou Zaki, Noureddine Naybet, Mustapha Hadji