CASABLANCA: Sofiane Boufal’s fallout at Southampton has cost him a World Cup place as Morocco coach Herve Renard made the surprise selection of Mehdi Carcela in his 23-man squad named on Thursday.
Boufal, 24, was banished from the Southampton first team following an argument with manager Mark Hughes and missed the last five games of the Premier League season. He angered Hughes by refusing to warm up when on the bench for a match against Chelsea and the pair clashed in the dressing-room.
Morocco’s squad was announced without any comment on their federation website (www.frmf.ma) but Renard has previously omitted players with disciplinary issues.
The 28-year-old Carcela, who won two caps for Belgium in friendlies before switching allegiance to Morocco, played eight minutes of the World Cup qualification campaign and had not been in the squad since September, but has played a major role in helping Standard Liege to second place in the Belgian league.
Morocco, who face Iran, Portugal and Spain in World Cup Group B, begin their training camp on Thursday in Rabat and play friendlies against Ukraine, Slovakia and Estonia before heading to Russia.
Squad: Goalkeepers: Yassine Bounou (Girona), Mounir El Kajoui (Numancia), Ahmad Reda Tagnaouti (Ittihad Tanger) Defenders: Badr Banoun (Raja Casablanca), Mehdi Benatia (Juventus), Manuel da Costa (Basaksehir), Nabil Dirar (Fenerbahce), Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid), Hamza Mendyl (Lille), Romain Saiss (Wolverhampton Wanderers) Midfielders: Youssef Ait-Bennasser (Caen), Sofyan Amrabat (Feyenoord Rotterdam), Nordin Amrabat (Leganes), Younes Belhanda (Galatasaray), Mbark Boussoufa (Al Jazeera), Karim El Ahmadi (Feyenoord Rotterdam), Faycal Fajr (Getafe), Amine Harit (Schalke 04), Hakim Ziyech (Ajax Amsterdam) Forwards: Aziz Bouhaddouz (St Pauli), Khalid Boutaib (Malatyaspor), Mehdi Carcela (Standard Liege), Ayoub El Kaabi (Renaissance Berkane)
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town, editing by Ed Osmond)