AFCON Profile: Morocco

Morocco have been involved in 13 editions of the competition, finishing in third place in 1908 and runners up in the 2004 showpiece

As winners of the 1976 Africa Cup on Nations, Morocco have failed to replicate that feat in the decades that have followed. However, they have been involved in 13 editions of the competition, finishing in third place in 1908 and runners up in the 2004 showpiece.

Known as the 'Lions of the Atlas', Morocco's highest ever FIFA ranking was achieved in April 1998, when they were named as the tenth best team in world football.

Traditionally, the national squad have used the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium (Rabat) and the Stade Mohamed V (Casablanca) as their main home grounds, but have been utilising the new Marrakech stadium for their last four international encounters.

They boast the record of becoming the first African nation to progress to the second round of the FIFA World Cup, which was achieved in the 1986 edition of the competition. Their impressive performances on the world stage signaled a golden period for their national team, who narrowly missed out on repeating that feat in 1998.

Their biggest win came against Saudi Arabia in September, 1961, with a 13-1 victory on home soil, while their heaviest defeat was a 6-0 mauling at the hands of Hungary in Japan three years later.

PREVIOUS AFCON INVOLVEMENTS:

Morocco were due to make their first appearance in the 1962 AFCON before the decision was made to withdraw from the competition. They eventually went on to make their AFCON debut in 1972, when they bowed out in the first round after losing out narrowly to Congo, who finished second in group B.

They have experienced mixed fortunes since their debut appearance, winning the AFCON in 1976 and finishing in third place in 1980.

The Lions of the Atlas have twice finished in fourth place (1986, 1988), while making it to the quarter finals in 1998, losing 2-1 to South Africa in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

SQUAD OVERVIEW:

The majority of the Morocco squad is comprised of overseas-based players, with a whole host of players plying their trade in France and Italy.

Adel Taarabt (Queens Park Rangers) and Marouane Chamakh (Arsenal) are the two key attacking players for the Lions of the Atlas, while skipper Houcine Kharja (Fiorentina) will be pulling the strings in midfield.

Nadir Lamyaghri (Wydad Casablanca), 35, is expected to keep his place in goal, while Badr El Kaddouri (Glasgow Celtic) will be a crucial cog in their defence.

ONE TO WATCH:

Queens Park Rangers attacking midfielder Adel Taarabt will undoubtedly be a key player for Morocco despite seeing his career on the domestic stage stutter in recent months. The 22-year-old has found himself on the fringes at the London club after losing the captaincy to new arrival Joey Barton.

However, he will have the perfect chance to prove his worth in January with some stand-out performances in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

QPR recently replaced manager Neil Warnock with former Fulham boss Mark Hughes, who will certainly be keeping an eagle eye on Taarabt's progress at the AFCON.

Taarabt's skill at set pieces will be a valuable weapon at Morocco's disposal, while the playmaker is also expected to chip in with goals and assists from open play.

FACTS

FIFA Rank: 61

Coach: Eric Gerets

Captain: Houssine Kharja

Nickname: The Lions of the Atlas

Previous AFCON finish: Did not qualify

FULL SQUAD:

Goalkeepers: Nadir Lamyaghri (Wydad), Issam Badda (FUS Rabat), Mohamed Amsif (Augsburg/GER)

Defenders: Jamal Allioui (Al Kharytiyath/QAT), Michael Chretien (Bursaspor/TUR), Badr El Kaddouri (Celtic/SCO), Abdelhamid El Kaoutari (Montpellier/FRA), Mehdi Benatia (Udinese/ITA), Abdelfattah Boukhriss (FUS Rabat), Mustapha Mrani (MAS Fez), Ahmed Kantari (Brest/FRA)

Midfielders: Houcine Kharja (Fiorentina/ITA), Adil Hermach (Al-Hilal/KSA), Karim Ahmadi (Feyenoord/NED), Younes Belhanda (Montpellier/FRA), Mbark Boussoufa (Anzhi Makhachkala/RUS), Youssouf Hadji (Rennes/FRA), Mehdi Carcela (Anzhi Makhachkala/RUS)

Forwards: Noureddine Amrabat (Kayserispor/TUR), Oussama Assaidi (Heerenveen/NED), Youssef El Arabi (Al-Hilal/KSA), Adil Taarabt (Queens Park Rangers/ENG), Marouane Chamakh (Arsenal/ENG)