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The Atlas Lions of Morocco upbeat about the upcoming FIFA World Cup

Morroco's national football team (From L) second row, forward Noureddine Amrabat, defender Manuel Da Costa, forward Khalid Boutaib,   -  
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Morocco

A new manager and the return of an exiled player are ingredients for an intriguing World Cup finals for Morocco.

It's a baptism of fire for Walid Regragui, who took the top job in September - three months before the Qatar showpiece event.

The former Morocco international replaced Vahid Halilhodzic, who was fired due to disagreements with the country's football federation over preparations for the World Cup.

Regragui will be looking to lead the Atlas Lions into the knockout round after failing in their last three attempts.

The North African nation came agonizingly close in 2018 Russia, conceding a last-gasp own goal to lose 1-0 to Iran and allowing Spain to steal a 2-2 draw with a late goal.

Can Hakim Ziyech turn the tide for Morocco?

Redemption is on the cards for the Chelsea winger, who returned from exile following Halilhodzic's exit. The 29-year-old was so unhappy under the disciplinarian Halilhodzic that he even announced his international retirement.

Ziyech is clearly part of Regragui's plans after he was deployed alongside Angers winger Sofiane Boufal to support Sevilla striker Youssef En-Nesyri in a 2-0 friendly win over Chile last month.

The new-look attacking trident should get plenty of scoring chances if Achraf Hakimi is in form. The Paris Saint-Germain right back is one of the best attacking fullbacks in world soccer and has pace, skill, good passing and an eye for shooting with eights goals in 53 games for Morocco.

Morocco, which is playing in its sixth World Cup after making its first appearance in 1970, became the first African team to reach the knockout round in 1986.

The Atlas Lions will need to be at their best as they face 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia in the tournament opener (23 November), before meeting European heavyweights Belgium four days later. Their final Group F clash will be against Canada (1 December).

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