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Last Updated: Friday, 6 February, 2004, 12:13 GMT
Morocco rise again
Morocco's Noureddine Naybet
The experience of Naybet is key to Morocco's success
For Morocco, winning a place in the Cup of Nations semi-finals is another step in a long rebuilding process.

The Atlas Lions confirmed their place in the last four following their dramatic extra-time victory over North African rivals Algeria in Sunday's quarter-final.

If the 3-1 win was hard work, at least Morocco's path to the last eight had been achieved with relative ease.

They topped Group D, beating Nigeria along the way.

But such a resurgence in form has been a long time coming for the one-time powerhouse of North African football.

Morocco won the Cup of Nations back in 1976 and were beaten semi-finalists in 1986 and 1988.

Since then they have only made it through to the quarter-final stage once.

This year, however, there seems to be a renewed energy and a quiet confidence about the Moroccan side.

This combination between the young and the experienced players has made a big difference
Morocco football federation secretary Mohammed Mufet

The general secretary of the country's football federation, Mohammed Mufet, believes a lot of that has to do with a mix of youth and experience.

"They are very young, but the team is built around a number of older players," he said.

Mufet is referring to captain Noureddine Naybet, Talal El Karkouri and Abdeslam Ouaddou - all seasoned European professionals.

Naybet, a veteran of five Cup of Nations tournaments, plays for Spanish side Deportivo La Coruna, Karkouri plies his trade for Paris Saint Germain, while Ouaddou is currently on loan from Fulham to Rennes.

"We also have some great young players in France, like Marouane Chammakh at Bordeaux," Mufet added.

"This combination between the young and the experienced players has made a big difference."

The man responsible for turning around the Moroccan fortunes is their former national team goalkeeper Badou Zaki.

Zaki took over from Portguese coach Humberto Coelho 18 months ago, after the North Africans failed to reach the 2002 World Cup and slipped out of the last Cup of Nations almost unnoticed.

He spent several months scouring the clubs of Europe to unearth young Moroccan talent.

While the fruits of his labour have been on show for all to see at this Cup of Nations, Zaki admits it has been tough.

"When I took over the team I had to change everything, including the organisational structure," he said.

"I also needed to find young talent to build a team for the future and I am pleased it has been successful."

"We now have a very young team, which is competent and brimming with confidence.

"I hope they can continue to produce the right results for the people of Morocco."





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