Dutch-born Mazraoui to join up with Morocco for Nations Cup qualifier

By Mark Gleeson South Africa
Noussair Mazraoui is eligible to play for both Morocco and the Netherlands at international level

Promising Ajax Amsterdam defender Noussair Mazraoui will join up with Morocco's squad this week for their Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Malawi after turning down appeals to consider pledging his international allegiance to the Netherlands.

Last week Mazraoui had talks with Dutch coach Ronald Koeman, who had earmarked him as a future player for the national team.

Despite listening to a persuasive argument, the 20-year-old remains committed to playing for Morocco.

"It is a nice compliment for me," he told the Dutch media as the two countries' national coaches both battled for his attention over the last week.

"Mr. Koeman presented an appealing plan that he said he had for me. It made a strong impression and I feel honoured that he went to such trouble just for me."

Born in Leiderdrop to Moroccan parents, the right-back is likely to make his debut when Morocco host the Flames in Casablanca on Saturday in their Group B encounter.

Mazraoui said he had spent a few days mulling over a decision after also talking to Morocco boss Herve Renard.

"The Netherlands is my country but Morocco is also my country.

"People who know me know that I'm a proud Hollander and a proud Moroccan. I was born and grew up here (in the Netherlands).

"I did think a lot in the last week about what it would be like to wear an 'Oranje' jersey in front of a packed stadium. And believe me, it would be great, playing for 'Oranje' with my Ajax teammates.

"I would like to play for both countries but obviously I cannot."

He has played for Morocco at junior level previously but not in a competitive senior match and so therefore could still have chosen to play for the Dutch.

"He is a serious option for the right-back spot and we want him in the future for the Dutch team," Koeman explained. "But I didn't promise him that I would put him straight into the team."

But Mazraoui informed the Dutch over the weekend of his decision to play for Morocco, following the path of club-mate Hakim Ziyech, who also put Morocco ahead of the Netherlands national team despite overtures from then coach Danny Blind.

Mazraoui has been named by Renard in Morocco's first post-World Cup squad, which is his first call-up despite being placed on the stand-by list for Russia in June.

Morocco Squad:

Goalkeepers: Yassine Bounou (Girona, Spain), Munir El Kajoui (Malaga, Spain), Ahmed Reda Tagnaouti (Ittihad Tanger)

Defenders: Nayef Aguerd (Dijon, France), Manuel da Costa (Istanbul Basaksehir, Turkey), Nabil Dirar (Fenerbahçe, Turkey), Walid El Hajjam (Amiens, France), Achraf Hakimi (Borussia Dortmund, Germany), Noussair Mazraoui (Ajax Amsterdam, Netherlands), Hamza Mendyl (Schalke 04, Germany), Romain Saïss (Wolverhampton Wanderers, England)

Midfielders: Nordin Amrabat (Al-Nasr, Saudi Arabia), Sofyan Amrabat (Club Bruges, Belgium), Youssef Aït-Bennasser (Monaco, France), Younès Belhanda (Galatasaray, Turkey), Mbark Boussoufa (no club), Karim El Ahmadi (Al Ittihad, Saudi Arabia), Faycal Fajr (Caen, France), Amine Harit (Schalke 04, Germany), Hakim Ziyech (Ajax Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Forwards: Yassine Bammou (Caen, France), Achraf Bencharki (Al-Hilal, Saudi Arabia), Khalid Boutaïb (Yeni Malatyaspor, Turkey), Ayoub El Kaabi (Hebei Fortune, China), Youssef En Nesyri (Leganés, Spain).

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