CAN 2023: Bad news for the Moroccan team, big scare for an executive

Romain Saïss, captain of the Morocco team who currently plays for Al-Shabab in Saudi Arabia, suffered an injury this Friday, December 22. He was hit while preparing to participate in the match against Al-Okhdoud in the Saudi Pro League.

The central defender of the Morocco team, who was about to join Olympique de Marseille this summer, was unable to participate in this championship meeting against the 12th in the ranking (out of 18 teams) in the Saudi league.

The Morocco team counts on Romain Saïss

Morocco team

With 78 caps (2 goals) to his name with the Moroccan national team, Saïss was injured a few minutes before kick-off and had to be replaced at the last minute. So far, he had played 11 matches (3 goals) this season in the Saudi championship, where he was loaned this summer by Al-Sadd SC (Qatar), without even having had the opportunity to wear the jersey in competition official.

Although the nature and length of recovery from the injury have not been disclosed, it comes just weeks before the start of the African Cup of Nations, sparking legitimate concerns among supporters. The Atlas Lions begin their campaign on January 17 against Tanzania, followed by matches against DR Congo four days later and Zambia on January 24.

At the age of 33, Romain Saïss realizes that this CAN could well be his last. The participant in the 2022 World Cup had also expressed his thoughts in September regarding this event impatiently awaited by the Moroccan people.

Morocco team

“This is a very important deadline. We know we are expected by the other teams, especially after our 2022 World Cup. We are not going to put any particular pressure on ourselves. We must be aware of our responsibility. Like the CdM, we want to have a journey that is worthy of the name and exceptional, while remaining humble. Because we are also aware that it has always been complicated in Africa. Proof of this is that to date, Morocco has only one CAN (1976, editor’s note), and that dates back almost 50 years. To say that today we are favorites because we had an exceptional CdM would therefore be a bit presumptuous,” he recently declared. 

The Moroccan team, favorite of Group F

While waiting for encouraging news on the condition of Romain Saïss, the Atlas Lions are aware of the great expectations weighing on them during CAN 2023. Placed in group F alongside the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Zambia and Tanzania, the Morocco team is considered one of the favorites, following its historic performance at the 2022 World Cup.

For Walid Regragui, the coach of the Moroccan national team, the level of this edition of the CAN will be particularly high. He underlines the competitiveness of each participating team by affirming that “  we were aware that this edition of the CAN would be the most challenging. No team is affordable and no group is easy. There are, at least, ten teams that can win the CAN. But in the end, there will only be one,” he recalled. He also acknowledges his team’s special status as “most anticipated” due to their appearance at the World Cup a year ago.

Morocco team

The Group F matches of the African Cup of Nations will take place at the Laurent Pokou stadium in San Pedro, a sports venue with a capacity of 20,000 seats. The group stage of the CAN will begin on January 13 and end on January 24, 2024. This 34th edition of the CAN has six groups, following the same format as that of the 2019 and 2022 editions. At the end of the group stages, Sixteen teams will qualify for the quarter-finals.

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