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Morocco coach rules out Ziyech return to squad ahead of World Cup

2022-04-23 20:40:00 1561 Versions

Morocco coach rules out Ziyech return to squad ahead of World Cup

Hakim Ziyech will not be returning to the Morocco national team squad, according to manager Vahid Halilhodzic.

Chelsea forward Ziyech alongside Ajax Amsterdam fullback Noussair Mazraoui are persona non grata to the Bosnian manager who has refused to open any doors of reconciliation between himself and both players.

In 2021, Halilhodzic accused Ziyech of feigning injury when called up to the Atlas Lions squad in an international break. Halilhodzic then left him out of a September 2021 squad, claiming Ziyech was seeking to unbalance the team.

"The medical staff made several examinations and said he could play," said the Morocco boss at the time. "He then refused to warm up in the second half because he was disappointed to be a substitute.

"For me, that type of behaviour is unacceptable. You can't cheat with the national team. You are 100 per cent there or you are not."

Ziyech then announced his retirement from the Atlas Lions while inferring that the Bosnian manager was not being truthful with his comments. Both of them reiterated their decisions when Morocco's 2021 African Cup of Nations squad was announced.

The Atlas Lions reached the quarter-finals of that tournament without Ziyech and have since gone on to bag a ticket for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar later this year.

Halilhodzic, in an interview with a commercial television station in Croatia, Nova TV, was asked about his job as Morocco head coach and if there is a possibility of the Chelsea man returning to the Atlas Lions.

“The player who refuses to train, who refuses to play, who fakes injuries, for me it’s a finished story,” Halilhodzic said.

“And then, when someone behaves like this, for me this story is over and I don’t want to talk about it anymore. I’ve made such a decision.

“The fact that someone thinks differently is their business.”

The Atlas Lions manager also stated that the “national team is something sacred” which “does not belong to the players (but) to the entire people”.

His comments also applied to Ajax's Mazraoui, who was omitted from the AFCON squad and announced that he will no longer be answering any call as long as the Bosnian was in charge of the squad.

Halilhodzic's comments come after the head of the Moroccan football federation Fouzi Lekjaa said last week that the doors of the national team remained “open to all Moroccan players, regardless of their differences”.

Halilhodzic was also asked about the recent criticism he has received from Moroccans for his tactics despite his achievements of recent. “We’ll see. Many strange things have already happened in my life … If someone thinks differently that’s his business.

“If they are not satisfied with me, it’s not the first time we separate”.

Morocco have been drawn in Group F and will face Croatia, Belgium and Canada in Qatar. Halilhodzic said he considers 2018 World Cup runners-up Croatia to be group favourites, but pledged that his team would do everything to beat them.

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Topic World CupInternational