The Moroccan national team, which achieved the feat in the World Cup in Qatar when it became the first African and Arab team to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup, is going through a real test when it hosts Brazil, the five-time world champion, in a friendly, on Saturday, March 25, 2023 in Tangiers.
Morocco had achieved a historic journey, ending in fourth place in the World Cup in Qatar, while the Brazilian team was knocked out in the quarter-finals by a penalty shootout against Croatia.
It will be Brazil’s first match on Moroccan soil.
Ibn Battuta Stadium can accommodate 65,000 spectators, and was the scene of the two Brazilian Flamengo matches in the last Club World Cup, which finished in third place.
After the departure of former Brazil coach Tite after the World Cup finals, the Brazilian Federation decided to name a temporary coach, Ramon Menezes (50 years), who supervises the under-20 team.
“This is a good start for Brazilian football,” said CBF President Ednaldo Rodriguez. “We chose a strong opponent, which is Morocco, which reached the semi-finals of the World Cup.”
The Moroccan national team waited until 1997 for its first match against Brazil, specifically in Belém, in an international friendly match. He made a good show before falling with two clean goals in the last ten minutes scored by Denilson (80 and 88).
One year later, the two teams met in the group stage in the 1998 World Cup in France. Ironically, the match was held in Nantes, whose colors were defended by then-Moroccan coach Henri Michel. The Brazilian national team achieved an easy victory with three goals scored by Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Bebeto.
The Brazilian national team opens a new page after failing to add a sixth star to its shirt in the World Cup Qatar, and will play the match in the absence of its star Neymar, who underwent surgery on his ankle, which will probably keep him away until the end of the current season.
The departure of the Paris Saint-Germain star from the French national team will allow him to think carefully about his future in the ranks of Seleção.
Neymar hinted after Brazil’s disappointing exit against Croatia in the quarter-finals of the World Cup in Qatar, on penalties, “I cannot guarantee 100 percent that I will return. I have to analyze what is best for me and the team.”
Neymar will be thirty-four when the next edition of the World Cup is held in 2026 in the United States, Mexico and Canada.
The successive injuries led to Neymar’s absence from a large proportion of Saint-Germain’s matches, and he played only 21 out of 55 matches played by his country since the end of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, or only 38 percent.
These absences did not prevent him from equaling the record number of goals in the ranks of the Brazilian national team, when he scored the goal of progress for his team against Croatia in the quarter-finals of the World Cup Qatar, to raise his tally to 77 goals, equaling the number of the late legend Pele.
“Neymar is the player most exposed to pressure and he never evaded this responsibility, but on the other hand he was not up to the aspirations,” said Robson Morelli, a journalist at the “Estadio de San Paolo”.
The Brazilian national team proved its ability to win titles, even in the absence of Neymar, and the most prominent evidence of this was its coronation in the 2019 Copa America at home, when the Brazilian star was injured.
The Brazilian national team will be absent against Morocco, defense poles Thiago Silva and Marquinhos, in addition to striker Richarlison due to injury, and it is likely that Manchester United midfielder Casemiro will act as captain in the absence of Silva.
Brazil’s offensive line will be led by Real Madrid duo Vinicius Junior and Rodrigo.
It will be an opportunity for the new coach to infuse new blood into his squad, noting that he called up only 10 players out of the 23 who defended the colors of the Selecao in the World Cup in Qatar.
Menezes said, “There are many young players who will do their best, especially as we open a new era. The Qatar World Cup is now behind us, and all our focus is on preparing for the 2026 World Cup.”
On the other hand, Moroccan coach Walid Regragui relies on a squad of mostly players who shone in the World Cup, led by goalkeeper Yassine Bono, defender Ashraf Hakimi, full-back Hakim Ziyech, Sofiane Amrabat and Azzedine Onahi.