Morocco captain Houssine Kharja denies quit rumours

By John BennettBBC Sport, Libreville
Morocco captain Houssine Kharja
Kharja at the news conference in Libreville where he had to deny he was quitting

Morocco captain Houssine Kharja says rumours he is quitting international football after a disappointing Africa Cup of Nations are completely false.

Moroccan media reports have suggested that Kharja, Youssef Hadji and Marouane Chamakh are all set to quit the team.

Morocco, a pre-tournament outsider, can no longer reach the last eight after Group C losses to Tunisia and Gabon.

"I was expecting these kinds of rumours if we failed but they have no foundation," Kharja said on Monday.

"Retirement has not crossed the mind of any of the players mentioned by the press."

"We are ready to play as long as we can (and) as long as the team needs us."

Kharja, who plays for Fiorentina in Italy, also called on the Moroccan media to be careful when criticising the younger players in the squad.

"There are lots of youngsters in this team, and we have to support them more than anything else," he said.

"What I would say to the Moroccan press is not to turn this into a drama. It's clear that we've let a lot of people down but I would ask for support for the youngsters.

"They did their best, and some have arrived here with only two or three caps."

"For me it's my fourth Cup of Nations - I can take the criticism but we have to support the youngsters."

Morocco end their campaign at this year's Cup of Nations against Niger, in the Gabonese capital Libreville on Tuesday.

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