Chelsea forward Hakim Ziyech has found form of late, with Blues fans undoubtedly thankful that the 28-year-old isn’t appearing for Morocco at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Several Premier League squads have been depleted this month, as star players aim for continental glory with their countries at the delayed 2021 AFCON held in Cameroon.
Why isn’t Hakim Ziyech playing for Morocco?
However, Morocco international Ziyech has remained at Stamford Bridge and has made quite an impact in doing so, scoring in each of last two games – an impressive long-ranger in a 1-1 draw with Brighton midweek and and even better curling effort in Sunday’s 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur.
It begs the question, why has his national team coach opted to leave the former Ajax man in London, rather than include him in an assault on a tournament that Morocco haven’t won since 1976?
It all stems back to the summer of last year, when Ziyech was accused by Morocco coach Vahid Halilhodzic of feigning injury in order to avoid playing in a friendly against Ghana in June.
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“I don’t care.”
In September, Ziyech was left out of another international squad, a decision he responded to by posting a laughter emoji on his Instagram Stories.
Unsurprisingly, he was then omitted from Halilhodzic’s AFCON squad when it was named last month, and in a post-match interview after Chelsea beat Spurs in the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, Ziyech’s blunt response was “I don’t care”.
Despite not having one of their star names to call upon, Morocco are faring just fine at the ongoing tournament.
With the like of Achraf Hakimi and Sofiane Boufal in the squad, the North African nation secured progress to the knockout stage by winning their opening two group games against Ghana and Comoros with out conceding a goal.
This result was followed up by a 2-2 draw with Gabon, which set up a meeting with Malawi in the last 16 on Tuesday.
With traditional heavyweights such as Ghana, Algeria and Nigeria already eliminated, it’s not unlikely that Ziyech could see his teammates crowned champions of Africa without him.
Born in the Netherlands, Ziyech played underage football with the Dutch national teams, before switching allegiance to Morocco in 2015.