Sofiane Boufal: France-born midfielder opts to play for Morocco

By Oluwashina OkelejiBBC Sport
Sofiane Boufal

France-born Sofiane Boufal has been included in Morocco's final 25-man squad for their Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Cape Verde.

The Lille midfielder, 22, is eligible to play for the Atlas Lions through his parents and has pledged his allegiance to the north African country.

Boufal was not part of provisional squad but the Moroccan Football Association and coach Herve Renard were able to persuade him to join the team.

He is one of five new call-ups.

The other uncapped players in Renard's squad are Ajaccio striker Khalid Boutaib, former Netherlands youth international Oussama Tannane, AS Nancy midfielder Youssef Aït Bennasser and Real Madrid B defender Achraf Hakimi.

In-form Granada striker Youssef El-Arabi, Bayern Munich defender Mehdi Benatia, Schalke's Younes Belhanda, Watford's Nordin Amrabat and Napoli defender Omar El Kaddouri are also listed.

Renard, who led Ivory Coast to the Nations Cup title in 2015 - three years after winning it with Zambia - replaced Badou Zaki as Morocco coach last month.

He has been set the targets of reaching the semi-finals of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon and qualifying for the World Cup a year later in Russia.

Morocco will travel to Praia to face Cape Verde on 26 March before hosting Africa's top-ranked side in Marrakech three days later.

The two countries are joint top of Group F having won both their matches so far, with Cape Verde ahead on goal difference. Libya and Sao Tome are the other teams in the pool.

The Atlas Lions have also progressed to the final round of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.

Morocco squad to face Cape Verde:

Goalkeepers: Mounir El Kajoui (Numancia, Spain), Yassine Bounou (Real Zaragoza, Spain), Abdelali M'Hamdi (RSB Berkane)

Defenders: Mehdi Benatia (Bayern Munich, Germany), Abdelhamid El Kaoutari (Reims, France), Issam Chebake (Le Havre, France), Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid B, Spain), Nabil Dirar (Monaco, France), Marouane Da Costa (Olympiakos, Greece), Mohamed Oulhaj (Raja Casablanca), Achraf Lazaar (Palermo, Italy), Romain Saïss (Angers, France)

Midfielder: Karim El Ahmadi (Feyenoord , Netherlands), Sofiane Boufal and Mounir Obbadi (Lille, France), Younes Belhanda (Schalke, Germany), Omar El Kaddouri (Napoli, Italy), Fayçal Fajr (Deportivo La Coruna, Spain), Youssef Aït Bennasser (Nancy, France), Nordin Amrabat (Watford, England), Hakim Ziyech (Twente, Netherlands), Mbark Boussoufa (Gent, Belgium)

Forwards: Khalid Boutaïb (GFC Ajaccio, France), Oussama Tannane (Saint-Etienne, France), Youssef El Arabi (Granada, Spain)