The Moroccan football federation has sacked national team head coach, Vahid Halilhodzic, just three months before the World Cup. The Franco-Bosnian coach was hired three years ago and led a successful FIFA World Cup qualification campaign for the Atlas Lions.
The future of the 69-year old coach has been the subject of much speculation in the Moroccan media ever since Morocco's lackluster performance at the Africa Cup of Nations finals in January this year, held in Cameroon.
He also had a troubled relationship with some of Morocco’s senior players; in particular, his falling out with the Chelsea midfielder, Hakim Ziyech. The Chelsea player was allegedly accused by Halilhodzic of fabricating an injury to skip mid-year friendlies, which prevented him from participating in the World Cup qualifying matches and the Africa Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon earlier this year.
However, amid a public outcry over Ziyech’s absence, federation president Fouzi Lekjaa has been pushing for the midfielder, who was born in the Netherlands, to return, which has put him at odds with his coach. Many believe it is one of the reasons why Halilhodzic has been fired.
The Moroccan Football federation stated that "Given the differences and divergent views between the Royal Moroccan Football Federation and national coach Vahid Halilhodzic on the best way to prepare the national football team for the Qatar 2022 World Cup, the two parties decided to separate."
Halilhodzic is now the first coach to be fired three times by national teams after they qualified for the World Cup finals. Ivory Coast and Japan replaced him after they qualified for the 2010 and 2018 tournaments, respectively. The Japanese Football Association fired him just two months before the 2018 finals in Russia, citing communication issues and that he had lost the dressing room.
In addition, the Ivory Coast fired Halilhodzic ahead of the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa after the Ivoirians performed poorly at the Cup of Nations finals earlier. The Ivory Coast replaced him with Sven Goran Eriksson.
Halilhodzic represented Yugoslavia at the 1982 World Cup and later enjoyed success as a striker in France. He led Algeria to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where they nearly shocked Germany in the round of 16.
Walid Regragui, a former international for Morocco, is anticipated to be named as the team's new coach. In May, he guided Wydad Casablanca to victory in the African Champions League.