x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Juventus starlet shines for Morocco

The North Africans topped Group C while late winner for Uzbekistan puts them through at Croatia's expense.

Younes Bnou Marzouk of Morocco celebrates after scoring against Panama in his side's 4-2 Under 17 World Cup win in Sharjah. Satish Kumar / The National
Younes Bnou Marzouk of Morocco celebrates after scoring against Panama in his side's 4-2 Under 17 World Cup win in Sharjah. Satish Kumar / The National

SHARJAH // As Morocco stormed into the knockout stages of the Fifa Under 17 World Cup, their greatest task may be tempering expectation.

“I’m pretty sure they can reach the last four,” said Jorge dely Valdes, the Panama coach, who had just watched his side thoroughly beaten by the north Africans. “In all their positions they have important players.”

Chief among those is Younes Bnou Marzouk, the Juventus striker, who with two fine goals suggested the Italian Serie A side were right to recruit him this summer.

Those arrived after Werner Wald had given Panama a surprise lead, yet Bnou Marzouk showed both pace and precision in turning the match around.

Further strikes from Hamza Sahki and Karim Achahbar stretched the scoreline and confirmed Morocco as Group C winners, although Panama salvaged a little pride when Ervin Zorrilla struck on 88 minutes.

While Valdes’s side go home with three defeats from three matches, Morocco look forward to the last 16. But no farther.

“Our main goal was to qualify to the next round, especially as we were in a tough group that included Uzbekistan, the Asian champions,” said Abdellah El Idrissi, Morocco’s coach. “Now the objective is to make a good, confident team and then to inspire our players to reach more and win more and more matches.”

That will most probably be Uzbekistan’s plan, too, after they defeated Croatia 2-1 to secure second place, despite a spectacular goal from Alen Halilovic. The Croatian star must wait until Friday’s final group fixtures to see if his side progress as one of the four best third-placed teams.

Scores

Morocco 4-2 Panama

Morocco: Bnou Marzouk 30, 40, Sakhi 49, Achahbar 85

Panama: Wald 20, Zorrilla 88

Croatia 1-2 Uzbekistan

Croatia: Halilovic 29

Uzbekistan: Caleta-Car (og) 15, Boltaboev 79

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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