Twenty years later, young Moroccan team to enjoy World Cup again

Source: Xinhua| 2018-06-15 03:18:33|Editor: mym
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SAINT PETERSBURG, June 14 (Xinhua) -- Twenty years after their last World Cup, Morocco returned to the football's showpiece event and will have their first match against Iran on Friday.

"We are among the youngest teams in this World Cup... We like to have fun, to laugh, but we know how to be serious," said Mehdi Benatia, captain of the team whose average age is 27.2.

Addressing to media at the Saint Petersburg Stadium Thursday afternoon, Benatia said coming to the World Cup "absolutely extraordinary".

"This is a dream made true for many of us, with a lot of work behind," he said. "We want to give joy to Moroccans."

Head coach Herve Renard, 49, tried to ease pressure off his players.

"Once you are here, you have to enjoy the moments. You shouldn't feel the pressure too much. You just have to trust your group, your lineup, and yourself," he said.

When asked about the Iranian team, Renard said that they had been observing them for a long time, and were informed of their strategy.

"They have good midfielder, and three attacking players with very high level. They can attack very quickly," he said.

One of the Iranian players especially mentioned was Sardar Azmoun, the country's fifth highest scorer of all time.

"We have no special plan against Azmoun. He is a very good player," Benatia said. "He scored major goals for his team. But we respect the whole team."

"We prepare as much as possible. We are not a minor team. We have our strength as well," Renard said. "We want to prove what we can do. We are a country that should be respected and we have a lot of assets."

"In a competition such as a World Cup, all players have a role to play. Sometimes you play five minutes, but it is the most important five minutes for your country and for your personal career. So you have to be highly motivated all the time, very focused," he said.

Morocco are currently on a run of 18 games unbeaten, including games against fellow World Cup teams Serbia, Nigeria, South Korea and Egypt. Only Belgium and Spain have a better record going into Russia 2018.

"Tomorrow we will see who is mentally fit, who is ready to perform, to be relaxed and serious at the same time, and that one is going to win," said Renard.