RABAT — Hakim Ziyech was the notable absentee as Morocco coach Vahid Halilhodzic on Thursday named his squad for next month's Africa Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon.
The Chelsea winger had a fallout with the coach earlier this year and was overlooked for the six World Cup qualifiers played between September and November, making his omission no shock although the Dutch-born Ziyech is seen as Morocco's key player.
Hakim Ziyech has been left out of Morocco's squad for the Africa Cup of Nations ❌ pic.twitter.com/Aev5lA5aqo— GOAL News (@GoalNews) December 23, 2021
Halilhodzic also left out the Ajax full back Noussair Mazraoui, who he also accused in mid-year of feigning injury to get out of playing in a friendly, an accusation Mazraoui has since denied.
The veteran coach sprung a surprise by naming Abdessamad Ezzalzouli, who has broken into Barcelona's team, and attacking midfielder Azzedine Ounahi, who has been one of the players key to Angers' bright start to the Ligue 1 season in France. Both are uncapped.
Morocco, who will be one of the pre-tournament favourites, compete in Group C with Comoros Islands, Gabon and Ghana at the finals, which get underway on Jan. 9.
Morocco AFCON Squad:
Goalkeepers: Yassine Bounou (Sevilla), Munir (Hatayspor), Anas Zniti (Raja Casablanca)
Defenders: Nayef Aguerd (Stade Rennes), Sofiane Alakouch (Metz), Sofian Chakla (OH Leuven), Souffian El Karouani (NEC Nijmegen), Achraf Hakimi (PSG), Adam Masina (Watford), Samy Mmaee (Ferencvaros), Romain Saiss (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Midfielders: Selim Amallah (Standard Liege), Sofyan Amrabat (Fiorentina), Aymen Barkok (Eintracht Frankfurt), Ilias Chair (Queens Park Rangers), Faycal Fajr (Sivasspor), Imran Louza (Watford), Azzedine Ounahi (Angers)
Forwards: Zakaria Aboukhlal (AZ Alkmaar), Sofiane Boufal (Angers), Munir El Haddadi (Sevilla), Ayoub El Kaabi (Hatayspor), Youssef En-Nesyri (Sevilla), Abdessamad Ezzalzouli (Barcelona), Ryan Mmaee (Ferencvaros).
(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Johannesburg; Editing by Christian Radnedge)