Arab football teams pin high hopes on int’l players at ’18 World Cup

Arab national football teams are pinning high hopes on their international players to help them overcome fierce competitions during the 2018 Russia World Cup.

Squads of Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt include international players while local ones dominate the line-up of the Saudi team.

Morocco’s coach Herve Renard’s 23-strong roster included three local players: goalkeeper Mohammad Tagnaouti from IR Tangers, Bader Banoun from Raja Casablanca and Ayoub Al-Kaabi from RS Berkane.

The Lions of Atlas are headed by Juventus international Mehdi Benatia who played 19 games with his team in the 2017-18 season and scored two goals.

Hakim Ziyech, the 25-year-old Ajax defender scored nine goals and contributed to four others. Nineteen-year-old Real Madrid international striker Achraf Hakimi was also in the squad.

The Moroccan squad, ranked four on Africa and 42nd on FIFA ranking, included goalkeepers Munir Mohammadi and Yassine Bounou.

Renard’s defense line-up includes Nabil Dirar, Turkey’s Fenerbahce defender, and Istanbul Basaksehir international Manuel da Costa, as well as Wolver Hampton’s Romain Saiss and Lille’s Hamza Mendyl.

The midfielders are Dutch Feyenoord’s internationals Karim Al-Ahmadi and Sofyan Amrabat, and Cannes Youssef Bennasser.

Mbark Bousoufa of UAE’s Al-Jazeera, Younes Belhanda of Turkey’s Galatasaray, Feycal Fajr of Spain’s outfit Getafe, Amine Harit of Germany’s Scalke 04, and Nordin Amrabat of Leganes, Spain, are also in the squad.

Khalid Boutaib of Turkey’s Yeni Malatyaspor, Aziz Bouhaddouz of Germany’s St. Pauli and Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez of Belgian Standard Liege will be the strikers.

Tunisia’s coach Nabil Maaloul’s squad mostly play in Arab and European countries.

Wahbi Kharzi, 27, the French Rennes striker scored nine goals in 23 games in the French league. Eyes will be on Kharzi in Russia.

Turkey’s Kasimpasa’s defender Syam Ben Youssef will have a huge burden to carry.

Tunisia, African’s number one team and 14th international, will be in same group of Belgium, England and Panama.

Goalkeepers will be Aymen Mathlouthi, of Saudi Arabia’s Al-Batin, Farouk Ben Mustapha of Al-Shabab of Saudi Arabia, and Mouez Hassan of France’s Chateauroux.

The defense line-up of the Eagles of Carthage includes Dylan Bronn of Belgium’s Gent, Yohan Benalouane of English Premier League outfit Leicester City, Belal Mohseni of Scotland’s Dundee United, Oussama Haddadi of France’s Dijon, Hamdi Nagguez of Al-Ahli and Ali Maaloul of Al-Zamalek.

Midfielders are Ellyes Skhiri of France’s Montpellier, Saif-Eddine Khaoui of Troyes, Karim Laribi, and Mohammad Amine Ben Omar and Ferjani Sassi who play in Saudi Arabia’s Ahli and Nasser teams.

Maaloul selected Naim Sliti, of Dijon, Bassem Srafi, of Nice, Fakhreddine Ben Youssef, of Al-Ettifaq of Saudi Arabia, and Ahmad Akaychi of Al-Ittihad of Saudi Arabia as his strikers.

The Egyptian team, however, is facing a setback following the injury of Liverpool international Mohammad Salah. The 25-year-old English Premier League top scorer was injured during UEFA Champions League final against Real Madrid.

Salah will need up to three weeks to recover.

Coach Hector Cuper’s initial squad includes Arsenal’s midfielder Mohammad Al-Neny, West Bromwich’s Ahmad Hejazi and Ali Jabr, as well as Stoke City’s midfielder Ramadhan Sohby.

Egypt, ranking 5th in Africa and 46th internationally, also includes Aston Villa’s defender Ahmad Mohammadi, Omar Jaber of Los Angeles and Amro Tareq of Orlando City.

Representing Egypt in defense are Karim Hafedh of Lens, Mahmoud Hassan of Kasimpasa, Wessam Morsi of Wigan Athletic, Amr Warda of Greece’s Atromitos and Ahmad Hassan of Sporting Praga.

Egypt’s line-up also includes veteran goalkeeper Essam Al-Hadhary, of Tawawun of Saudi Arabia, defender Mohammad Abdulshafi, Al-Fath of Saudi Arabia, midfielder Mahmoud Abdulrazzaq, Al-Raed, Mahmoud Abdulmunem of Ittihad and Abdullah Al-Saeed of Al-Ahli of Saudi Arabia.

The fourth Arab team to qualify for the World Cup is Saudi Arabia, which signed a partnership agreement with Spain’s La Liga association with the aim of developing football in the Kingdom.

This had paved way for transfer of nine Saudi players to seven Spanish clubs in the premier and second divisions.

Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi announced initial roster of 28 players, among them were Yahya Al-Shehri, Fahad Mowalled and Salem Al-Dosari. Saudi Arabia’s group includes Russia, Uruguay and Egypt.

Source: Kuwait News Agency