RABAT : Hakim Ziyech was left out of Morocco’s squad for this week’s two World Cup qualifiers because of "unacceptable behaviour" in their last matches, coach Vahid Halilhodzic said on Wednesday.
Ziyech, 28, was a surprise omission last week when the squad was named for the Group I qualifiers against Sudan in Rabat on Thursday and Guinea next Monday, with no explanation offered at the time.
But Halilhodzic explained the omission at a news conference on Wednesday, saying the Chelsea player had a poor attitude in June when called up for home friendlies against Ghana and Burkina Faso.
“His behaviour in the last two matches, especially the last one, was not that of a national team player who as a leader in the team has to be positive role model.
“He arrived late and after that he even refused to work. There was no point in discussing it afterwards, as a coach the answer is right there to see. For me, the national team is above everything, nobody can hold it hostage," said the former Paris St Germain coach.
Halilhodzic said Ziyech refused to play the first game against Ghana, maintaining that he was injured.
“For the first time in my coaching career, I have seen behaviour that disappoints me. A player who refuses to play a game, admittedly a friendly, on the pretext that he is injured.
“The medical staff made several examinations and said he could play. He then refused to warm up in the second half because he was disappointed to be a substitute.
“For me, that type of behaviour is unacceptable. You can't cheat with the national team. You are 100per cent there or you are not,” Halilhodzic added.
It is not the first time the Dutch-born Ziyech has been at loggerheads with a coach. He refused to play for Morocco after Herve Renard left him out of the squad for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations finals, also because of his attitude.
He returned to the squad after almost a year’s absence after the two held a ‘clear the air’ meeting in Amsterdam and was selected to go to the World Cup finals in Russia.
(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Clare Fallon)