SportsDay
SPORTS UPDATE

Coach rules out World Cup recall for Ziyech, Mazraoui

Coach Vahid Halilhodzic, who led Morocco to the 2022 World Cup, said his decision not to pick Chelsea attacker Hakim Ziyech and Ajax full-back Noussair Mazraoui is a “finished story”.

“The player who refuses to train, who refuses to play, who fakes injuries, for me it’s a finished story,” Halilhodzic told Croatia’s commercial Nova TV on Thursday when asked if he would recall the two players for the World Cup in Qatar.

Ziyech and Mazraoui were omitted from the qualifying playoff matches against the Democratic Republic of Congo last month.

Neither player was part of the squad that reached the quarterfinals of the African Cup of Nations in Morocco in Cameroon in January.

Last week the head of the Moroccan football federation Fouzi Lekjaa said that the doors of the national team remained “open to all Moroccan players, regardless of their differences”.

But, for Halilhodzic, a former Nantes and Paris Saint-German player, the “national team is something sacred” which “does not belong to the players (but) to the entire people”.

“And then, when someone behaves like this, for me this story is over and I don’t want to talk about it anymore. I’ve made such a decision.

“The fact that someone thinks differently is their business.”

Ziyech said in February that he was retiring from international football after a dispute with Halilhodzic, who accused him of a lack of respect that he said could “blow up the team”.

Despite World Cup qualification, Halilhodzic has been criticised in Morocco for his tactics and rumours have circulated of his possible departure.

Asked about his future, Halilhodzic told Nova TV that he was “serene”.

“We’ll see. Many strange things have already happened in my life … If someone thinks differently that’s his business.

“If they are not satisfied with me, it’s not the first time we separate”.

Morocco qualified for the World Cup last month after strolling through a play-off against the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In Qatar, they will face Croatia, Belgium and Canada in Group F.

Halilhodzic said he considered Croatia, who were runers-up at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the group favourite but pledged his team would do everything to beat them.

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