Morocco XI to play Croatia in World Cup's third place playoff: Ounahi benched, Sabiri starts

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The Atlas Lions are aiming at being the first African country to finish in World Cup's medal bracket

Morocco play Croatia at Khalifa Stadium on Saturday aiming at ending their adventure at the World Cup with a bronze medal.

Apart from the medal, the Atlas Lions will be aiming at getting their fifth clean sheet in the competition, and in the process equal the achievement by the Netherlands (1974), Italy (1990), Brazil (1994), France (1998), Germany (2002), Italy (2006) and Spain (2010).

Goalkeeper Yassine Bounou is also chasing the Golden Glove alongside Argentina shot-stopper Emiliano Martinez who will be in action on Sunday in the final against defending champions France.

Here is how Walid Regragui's side line up;

  1. Goalkeeper: Yassine Bounou

    Goalkeeper: Yassine Bounou

    Given he is in contention for the goalkeeper of the tournament award, Bounou is the first name on the team sheet.

  2. Right-back: Achraf Hakimi

    Right-back: Achraf Hakimi

    Another standout performer for Morocco, Hakimi has been ever present and it explains why he has kept his place in the starting team.

    Hakimi’s ability to pick out passes from deep has seen him provide one assist and it might come in handy if the North Africans find themselves doing more defending than attacking against Croatia.

  3. Centre-back: Achraf Dari

    Centre-back: Achraf Dari

    With Morocco’s first-choice centre-backs Romain Saiss and Nayef Aguerd injured, Dari has started his second straight match at the World Cup, having played 90 minutes against France and 34 off the bench against Portugal in the quarter-final.

  4. Centre-back: Jawad El Yamiq

    Centre-back: Jawad El Yamiq

    El Yamiq was the beneficiary of Aguerd’s absence through injury, starting against Portugal and France, and has started a third straight game at the heart of Morocco’s defence.

  5. Left-back: Yahia Attiyat-Allah

    Left-back: Yahia Attiyat-Allah

    A battle for a starting berth at left-back has been between Noussair Mazraoui and Yahia Attiyat-Allah but coach Walid Regragui has opted to go with the latter owing to his exploits defensively and offensively.

    Mazraoui has also been struggling with injury.

  6. Central midfield: Sofyan Amrabat
    Getty Images

    Central midfield: Sofyan Amrabat

    Another ever present member of Morocco’s historic run in Qatar, the Fiorentina midfielder is the man who gets the Atlas Lions going, shielding the back four when out of possession and acting as the link between defence and attack.

  7. Central midfield: Bilal El Khannouss

    Central midfield: Bilal El Khannouss

    Selim Amallah has been benched with El Khannouss taking his place alongside Amrabat. He will have to be alert and cover his partner especially when the team is attacking.

  8. Attacking midfield: Abdelhamid Sabiri

    Attacking midfield: Abdelhamid Sabiri

    Sabiri has been preferred in the attacking midfield role as Azzedine Ounahi drops to the bench. Sabiri has not featured in the last two matches against Portugal and France respectively.

  9. Right wing: Hakim Ziyech

    Right wing: Hakim Ziyech

    The Chelsea winger has a goal and an assist given he is the man that makes Morocco tick in the final third. Ziyech’s passes and crosses have been too difficult for opposition defenders to deal with and only poor finishing from his teammates has denied him more assists.

  10. Left wing: Sofiane Boufal

    Left wing: Sofiane Boufal

    Boufal’s tendency to drop deep and win possession has helped take the pressure off the fullbacks and he also likes to carry the ball into the box before passing to teammates.

  11. Striker: Youssef En-Nesyri

    Striker: Youssef En-Nesyri

    Morocco’s top scorer with two goals, the 25-year-old will want an opportunity to right the wrongs of Wednesday when he left the pitch with the unwanted statistic of having touched the ball only three times in 65 minutes.