Morocco prepare for World Cup with 2-1 win over Slovakia

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Geneva, June 5 (IANS) Morocco came from behind to defeat Slovakia 2-1 in the North African side’s penultimate friendly before the 2018 World Cup.

After being held 0-0 last Thursday by Ukraine, the Moroccans here Monday made a better showing against the Slovaks, who missed qualifying for the World Cup, Efe news reported.

Morocco set a blistering tempo in the opening minutes, keeping the European side bottled-up in their own end and threatening twice in the first quarter-hour: Hakim Ziyech hit the post and Mbark Boussoufa forced a difficult save from Slovak goalkeeper Michal Sulla.

Nordin Amrabat, Mehdi Benatia, and Younes Belhanda also had chances for Morocco in the first half.

Seeing little of the ball, Slovakia had to rely on the counter and the approach nearly paid off, but Marek Hamsik’s effort from close range went over the cross-bar.

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The Moroccans slowed down a little in the second half and the Slovaks made the most of the respite, taking a 1-0 lead in the 57th minute on a low, hard shot from outside the box by Jan Gregus.

After conceding for the first time in nearly a year, Morocco were quick to respond.

Ayoub Kaabi, who came on at the hour mark for Khalid Boutaib, needed only three minutes to bring his side level, heading in a corner in the 63rd minute to ignite a ferocious rally.

Though Slovak coach Jan Kozac shifted to five at the back in a bid to blunt the Moroccan attack, Belhanda put his side ahead 2-1 in the 74th minute, pouncing on a rebound and putting the ball well out of the reach of Sulla.

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Morocco will play Estonia later this week in Tallinn in Estonia before heading to Russia, where their World Cup campaign begins June 15 with a match against Iran.

The Moroccans’ other opponents in the group stage will be Spain and Portugal in Group B.

–IANS

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