In a final World Cup qualifying group containing Ivory Coast, Gabon and Mali, Morocco were outsiders for a spot at the finals in Russia.
However, under the guiding hand of Herve Renard, the Atlas Lions emerged unbeaten in their six matches – without conceding a single goal and scoring 11 in the process – to book their first finals spot in 20 years.
The 42nd best side on the planet according to FIFA’s rankings, they’ll need something special to match their 1986 achievement of getting through the group stage, having been paired with Iberian duo Spain and Portugal.
But a defence marshaled by Juventus’ Medhi Benatia and Wolves’ Romain Saiss has proven itself tough to break down, while an attack containing Ajax star Hakim Ziyech is full of (albeit inconsistent) talent.
They open up against the similarly durable Iran; win that, and they could prove themselves a real nightmare for Portugal in their second game.
With three wins and three draws – including a 2-0 win in Ivory Coast in their must-not-lose finale – Morocco made their way to Russia, navigating a potentially tricky group.
Reached last year’s Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final – losing to finalists Egypt.
A former Netherlands Under-21 international, Ajax playmaker Hakim Ziyech has become an increasingly important cog in the Moroccan midfield under Renard.
Talented and strong – not unlike Spurs’ Mousa Dembele – he has flourished with the Dutch giants since moving into a deeper role.
At 25, he has 13 caps and seven goals to his name. As he enters his prime, he can make this his team.
Achraf Hakimi made his senior Real Madrid debut earlier this season and has proven himself a more than able deputy for Dani Carvajal when the Spaniard has been absent.
Born in Madrid to parents of Moroccan descent, Hakimi joined Los Blancos as an eight year old and now, at 19, is beginning to make an impact.
Made his full international debut in 2016 and will vie for a place with veteran Fenerbahce full-back Nabil Dirar for a starting spot.
Squad in full
Goalkeepers: Mounir El Kajoui (Numancia), Yassine Bounou (Girona), Ahmad Reda Tagnaouti (Ittihad Tanger)
Defenders: Mehdi Benatia (Juventus), Romain Saiss (Wolves), Manuel Da Costa (Basaksehir), Badr Benoun (Raja Casablanca), Nabil Dirar (Fenerbahce), Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid), Hamza Mendyl (Lille)
Midfielders: Mbark Boussoufa (Al Jazira), Karim El Ahmadi (Feyenoord), Youssef Ait Bennasser (Caen), Sofyan Amrabat (Feyenoord), Younes Belhanda (Galatasaray), Faycal Fajr (Getafe), Amine Harit (Schalke)
Forwards: Khalid Boutaib (Malatyaspor), Aziz Bouhaddouz (St. Pauli), Ayoub El Kaabi (Renaissance Berkane), Nordin Amrabat (Leganes), Mehdi Carcela (Standard Liege), Hakim Ziyech (Ajax)
Friday June 15 – Morocco vs Iran, 4pm, Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg
Wednesday June 20 – Portugal v Morocco, 1pm, Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
Monday June 25 – Spain vs Morocco, 7pm, Kaliningrad Stadium, Kaliningrad
Morocco are 400/1 to win the tournament outright, via betfair.
*odds correct at the time of publishing
Read our comprehensive guide to the 2018 World Cup HERE.
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