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Written by Martin Graham | April 23, 2022

Hakim Ziyech will not return to the Moroccan national team squad, according to coach Vahid Halilhodzic.

Chelsea striker Ziyech, along with Ajax Amsterdam defender Nassir Mazraoui, is considered persona non grata for the Bosnian coach, who refused to open any doors for reconciliation between him and both players.

In 2021, Halilhodzic accused Ziyech of faking injury when called up for the Atlas Lions team in an international break. Halilhodzic then left him out of the September 2021 squad, claiming that Ziyech was seeking to upset the team’s balance.

“The medical staff did several tests and said he could play,” the president of Morocco said at the time. Then he refused to warm up in the second half because he was disappointed to be a substitute.

“For me, this kind of behavior is unacceptable. You cannot cheat with the national team. You are there 100 per cent or you are not.”

Ziyech then announced his retirement from the Atlas Lions, concluding that the Bosnian director was not sincere in his comments. Both reiterated their decision when the Morocco squad for the 2021 African Cup of Nations was announced.

The Atlas Lions reached the quarter-finals of that tournament without Ziyech and have since gone on to hold a ticket for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar later this year.

Halilhodzic, in an interview with a commercial television station in Croatia, Nova TV, was asked about his job as coach of Morocco and whether there was a possibility of the Chelsea player returning to the Atlas Lions.

“The player who refuses to train, who refuses to play and who fakes injuries is a definitive story for me,” Halilhodzic said.

“And then, when someone acts like this, this story ends for me and I don’t want to talk about it anymore. I made such a decision.

“The fact that someone thinks differently is their job.”

The Atlas Lions coach also stated that “the national team is a sacred thing” which “does not belong to the players (but) to the whole people”.

His comments also apply to Ajax’s Mazraoui, who was removed from the Africa Cup of Nations squad and announced that he would not answer a call anymore as long as the Bosnian was in charge of the team.

Halilhodzic’s comments come after Moroccan Football Federation president Faouzi Lekjaa said last week that the doors of the national team remained “open to all Moroccan players, regardless of their differences.”

Halilhodzic was also asked about the criticism he received recently from Moroccans for his tactics, despite his recent achievements. “We will see. Many strange things have already happened in my life… If someone thinks differently that is their business.

“If they are not satisfied with me, this is not the first time we have separated.”

Morocco was drawn into Group F, and it will face Croatia, Belgium and Canada in Qatar. Halilhodzic said he considered 2018 World Cup runners-up Croatia as a favorite in the group, but pledged that his team would do everything in their power to beat them.

Martin Graham is a sports writer for the MFF Forum

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