This piece contains excerpts from a larger article The Football Coach 271.
The disappointment about the lost consolation final soon gave way to pride. Because Morocco will go down in the books as the first African country to finish among the best four countries at a World Cup. ‘Thanks to us, children in Morocco and in many African countries can dream again about football success and participation in a World Cup. That is priceless and worth much more than winning the title,” said successful national coach Walid Regragui after the match for third place, in which Croatia was 2-1 too strong.
Attacking: Holding the ball in your own half
In addition to Amrabat, Ziyech and Boufal, Morocco also had En-Nesyri. The 1.89 meter tall striker from Sevilla is strong and agile, acted as a point of contact both on the ground and in the air and could hold balls up front. Don’t you have such a strong and playing striker? Then you run the risk that you will mainly play in your own half in 1:4:1:4:1, because you cannot hold any balls. Midfielders cannot close enough in the transition. In the same switch, Morocco immediately tried to look for Ziyech or Boufal. The individual qualities of these players were the basis for this. In this first example, Ziyech is surrounded by three opponents in the round of 16 against Spain. Being able to hold the ball and lure opponents is a weapon. Ziyech binds several Spaniards, while Ounahi comes into free space behind him and receives the ball. Thanks to Ziyech’s luring and binding, fellow players are enabled to get into better positions.
Threat on the left and through the center
What Ziyech does on the right, Boufal does on the left. But where Ziyech on the right turned out to be of value for the Regragui team on the square meter, Boufal was on the left mainly because of his dribbles. Unlike his buddy on the right, Boufal moved more often to the center on the left this World Cup. The similarity between the two players is that, just like Ziyech, Boufal was also frequently sought. And through his dribbles he also binds opponents, but he also manages to break through lines himself with some regularity. A good example of this arose against France. The Moroccans captured the ball just outside their own sixteen-meter area and the first thing they did was to look for Boufal. Again, thanks to technical and physical qualities, he succeeded in taking the ball between various opponents, turning it and continuing the attack on the opponent’s half.
It is understandable that the Moroccan team received praise especially in defensive terms. Before the semi-final against France, the team only conceded one goal. Of the eight teams that still participated in the quarterfinals in Qatar, no team did better. That defensive certainty was mainly made possible by the activity of Sofyan Amrabat in midfield. In the 1:4:1:4:1 he mainly remained active in zone 5.
From the opponent’s perspective, he was therefore in zone 14, the zone the attacking party would like to enter. Against France, in which Morocco played in 1:5:4:1 partly due to personnel problems, Amrabat also simply held onto that position in zone 5.
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