African team could win World Cup in 10-12 years, says Morocco coach Vahid Halilhodzic

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Sadio Mane, Achraf Hakimi and Mohamed SalahSadio Mane's Senegal and Achraf Hakimi's Morocco will be at the 2022 World Cup finals, but Mohamed Salah's Egypt failed to qualify

It will take another decade for an African team to be crowned World Cup winners despite the continent boasting some of the best players in the world, according to Morocco coach Vahid Halilhodzic.

Brazilian legend Pele once famously predicted that an African team would lift the trophy before the year 2000, and, while that never materialized, Halilhodzic believes Africa can claim football's most coveted prize within 12 years.

"African football players progress more and more but for an African team to go all the way one day, a bit more time is needed," Halilhodzic said.

"Today, African footballers are the best in the world, [with] the image of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Achraf Hakimi, Yassine Bounou.

"But now you need the teams to become more performant to one day go all the way. It won't be for right now, but in 10-12 years perhaps there will be an African team that will win it."

No African team has ever reached the last four of the World Cup, with Ghana the last team from the continent to feature in the quarter-finals in 2010 when Uruguay and Luis Suarez broke the Black Stars' hearts with a goalline handball in extra time.

At the last World Cup, all of Africa's five representatives, including Morocco, were eliminated in the group phase. Senegal came closest to progressing - only to become the first ever team to be eliminated on the fair play tiebreaker rule.

Later this year at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Morocco will face 2018 World Cup runners-up Croatia, 2018 bronze medallists Belgium and Canada, who have qualified for the finals for the first time since 1986, in Group F.

Halilhodzic, who was born in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is looking forward to playing Croatia because of the ties and proximity with his native country.

Morocco will open their World Cup campaign against the Croatians on 23 November at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor.

"The team of Croatia is my neighbours," the 69-year-old said. "I am often there and I know quite a few people in Croatia.

"[Croatia coach] Zlatko Dalic has played in the same club as me. He has coached my brother. He hails from Livno, which is not far from Mostar. I know the team. It will be the match that I will prepare with pleasure."

In their second group game, the Moroccans will face Belgium, a team Halilhodzic and Algeria encountered at the 2014 World Cup, before wrapping up their campaign against Canada.

"We led until the 70th minute, but at the end, we lost because we were afraid," Halilhodzic recalled of Algeria's game against Belgium eight years ago, which the Europeans won 2-1.

"It's about experience. You have to prepare your team to play a team like Belgium. They possess exceptional, individual qualities. It's a machine that has played together for years."

Morocco, who are participating in their sixth World Cup, reached the knock-out stages at the 1986 World Cup when they were eliminated 1-0 by West Germany in the round of 16.

Morocco coach Vahid HalilhodzicVahid Halilhodzic was appointed Morocco coach in August 2019
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