Hosts Morocco will look for a fast start in the 2018 African Nations Championship when they face Mauritania in the tournament opener at Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca on Saturday.
Morocco will be making a third successive appearance at the tournament, having reached the quarterfinals on debut in 2014, followed by a group stage exit at the last CHAN in Rwanda two years ago.
This time around expectations are high for coach Jamal Sellami and his locally-based side, with Morocco having enjoyed a wonderful 2017 which saw the senior national team secure a return to the World Cup finals for the first time since 1998, and Wydad Casablanca winning the CAF Champions League.
Following CAF’s decision to hand Morocco hosting rights for the 2018 CHAN (after stripping Kenya of the duty), the locally-based Atlas Lions now have a chance to add to the country’s growing list of football achievements.
"The year 2017 has witnessed the great awakening of Moroccan football and its return to the forefront of the continental and international scenes,” Sellami told MAP.
"Far from putting pressure on the players, the qualification to the World Cup 2018 in Russia and the coronation of WAC in the Champions League is a motivation for players to apply to the maximum and to fill the list of exploits by a new coronation.”
The hosts’ opponents, Mauritania, are making their second appearance at the CHAN. They debuted in South Africa 2014, where they exited in the group stage.
‘Les Mourabitounes’ coach Corentin Martins has only recently revealed his 23-man squad for the competition, having overseen preparations in camps in Tunisia and Nouakchott.
The French tactician has included highly-rated attackers Karamoko Traore, Ely Samba Ould Voulany and Moulaye Ahmed Khalil, though rising star Moctar Salem Belal didn’t make the cut.
This will be the first official international match between Morocco and Mauritania, according to FIFA’s statistical database.