Three months after reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup, Morocco host international powerhouse Brazil in a friendly on Saturday evening.
This is only the third time in history that the two teams have faced each other after a first match in 1997 and a second one a year later during the World Cup in France. Each time, the Auriverde won against the band of Mustapha Hadji . 2-0 in Belém, Brazil, in October 1997, with a late double from Denilson, and then 3-0 in Nantes, France, in the World Cup group match with goals from Ronaldo , Rivaldo and Bebeto.
The African nation captured hearts as they flew to the semi-finals of the World Cup, seeing off Belgium, Spain and Portugal as part of one of the most memorable runs in tournament history.
The Atlas Lions were eventually knocked out by France in the semi-finals before losing to Croatia in the third-placed playoff, but they exited the tournament with their heads held high.
Morocco were due to compete in the African Nations Championship in January but withdrew due to travel complications, so the players will be eager to return to international duty after enjoying a fairytale run in Qatar.
That run will ensure Morocco are not scared of Brazil, who were dumped out one stage earlier in Qatar and are looking for a new permanent manager following the departure of Tite.
This will be Brazil’s first outing since the departure of Tite back in December, with interim manager Ramon Menezes tasked with taking down the Atlas Lions.
Despite having lost just six of his 81 matches in charge of Selecao, manager Tite parted ways with the national team following the disappointment in Qatar, leaving Ramon Menezes to take the reins on an interim basis.
Menezes inherits one of the strongest teams in international football, as Brazil have lost just one of their previous 20 games inside 90 minutes, but there is a sense that major changes are needed for the five-time World Cup winners to compete at the highest level once again.
Manager Walid Regragui has kept the core of his squad together after the World Cup but has involved a number of youngsters looking to secure their first caps.
Potential debutants: El Mehdi Benabid, Abdel Abqar, Yassine Kechta, Chadi Riad, Benjamin Bouchouari, Ayoud Amraoui, Ibrahim Salah
Brazil have shaken things up a little bit. Interim boss Ramon Menezes has been forced to do without the injured Neymar but has left notable names like Alisson, Gabriel Martinelli, Bruno Guimaraes and Raphinha at home.
Instead, there’s a youthful vibe to the Selecao, who have no fewer than ten uncapped players in the squad.
Potential debutants: Rony, Raphael Veiga, Yuri Alberto, Joao Gomes, Mycael, Andrey Santos, Andre, Vitor Roque, Robert Renan, Arthur
Where are Morocco vs Brazil playing?
Location: Tangier, Morocco
Stadium: Grand Stade de Tanger
Date: Saturday 25 March
Kick-off Time: 22:00 GMT
Referee: Sadok Selmi (TUN)
Atlas Lions predicted lineup (5-4-1): Bounou; Hakimi, Aguerd, Saiss, El Yamiq, Mazraoui; Ziyech, Ounahi, Amrabat, Boufal; En-Nesyri
Selecao predicted lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Emerson, Bremer, Militao, Lodi; Casemiro, Santos, Paqueta; Antony, Rodrygo, Vinicius
Morocco Atlas Lions vs Brazil Selecao prediction
Having avoided defeat in 12 of their last 14 matches across all competitions – picking up eight wins along the way – Morocco look set to give Brazil a run for their money in Tangier.
By contrast, Brazil’s World Cup campaign ended in disappointment once again, as the South American giants bowed out at the quarter-final stage for a fourth time in five attempts.
The nature of Brazil’s squad suggests they aren’t particularly bothered about winning and will prioritise minutes for the next generation of exciting youngsters, who will definitely be in for a fight.
Morocco’s talents may not jump off the page individually, but as they proved in Qatar, they are a strong unit who know how to exceed expectations, and even though this is just a friendly, they’ll be eyeing another scalp.
Buoyed by their achievements at the World Cup, Morocco will fancy their chances of frustrating Brazil in front of a passionate home crowd in Tangier.
Given Brazil’s strength in depth, it will be difficult for the hosts to claim a famous win over Selecao especially if the South Americans are a little disjointed, they will struggle up against Morocco’s famously tough defence, but the Atlas Lions have more than enough talent – and spirit – to share the spoils in this one.
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