Rabat – After a nearly 20-year absence, the Atlas Lions are heading back to the 2018 World Cup taking place in Russia next summer. The Moroccan team was placed today in Group B along with its neighbor, Spain, as well as Portugal and Iran.The Moroccan team showed its great determination in the World Cup qualifiers against notable African opponents like Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, and Mali. The Moroccan team will have to keep up this determination when playing against the most toughest football teams in the world: La Roja (Spain), Portugal, and Iran.The Lions will play against Iran in their first match, which is scheduled to take place on June 15. Morocco’s first World Cup opponent team was ranked 32th in the recent FIFA ranking and has qualified for the World Cup five times (in 1978, 1998, 2006, 2014 and 2018). The Moroccan team has been hitting international headlines throughout the World Cup qualifiers, as they finished undefeated. The fabulous victory against Cote d’Ivoire in the last qualifier on November 11 proved the team’s great will to do better achievements in the tournament’s next phase.After Iran, Morocco will face Portugal on June 20, the third best team in November’s FIFA ranking. The team has made six appearances in the World Cup, in 1966, 1986, 2002, 2006, 2010, and 2014, with the 2018 edition to be their seventh. The next battle for the Moroccan Lions will be against their neighboring team, La Roja. The Morocco-Spain match is scheduled to take place on June 25. The Spanish team is one of the most present teams at the World Cup finals, with 14 appearances out of the 20 tournaments. The Moroccan team has rejoined the heroes who returned to the World tournament for the first time since 1998. “Finally, Morocco will be in Spain’s way towards reaching the group of sixteen,” wrote Spanish news outlet Marca after the World Cup final draw, which placed the Moroccan team in the same group as the Spanish team was placed (Group B).Calling Morocco “one of the traditional powers of Africa, which in recent times had lost relevance,” the Spanish sports site noted that the team has now regained its prestige, owing to the work done by their French coach, Herve Renard.The Frenchman played an eminent role in the Moroccan team’s qualification. The team also called on the most skilfull Moroccan international and local footballers, who did their utmost to defend their Moroccan jersey during the World Cup qualifiers.“Footballers have already accustomed to the European elite as [Mehdi] Benatia (Juventus), Achraf [Hakimi] (Real Madrid), [Nordin] Amrabat (Leganes) or [Younes] Belhanda (Galatasaray) will make the African team a complicated opponent for Lopetegui,” wrote Marca, referring to Julen Lopetegui, a former Spanish footballer and current manager of Spanish national football team.Lopetegui said that Spain will face “one of the most toughest teams, including the Moroccan team who excluded the Ivorian team in the World Cup qualifiers.”These footballers are one of the best Moroccan players, who scored many goals and mezmorized their supporters with great performances during the qualifiers along with other footballers, including Hakim, Ziyech, Nabil Dirar, Faycal Fajr, and Khalid Boutaib. Mustapha Hadji, former Moroccan football legend and currently the team’s assistant coach, said that the Moroccan team was placed in a “deadly group.” Hadji, who was present during the Moscow’s draw, told Moroccan radio station Mars that “[the Moroccan team] has its say during the first match, we have to negotiate it,” adding that this match will “condition the remaining course of Morocco in the World Cup.”“After Iran, we will manage match by match,” said the former legend. “We have our chance, we have our card to play.”This will be the fifth time Morocco will participate in the World Cup, after previously playing in 1970, 1986, 1994, and 1998.
“On this World Statistics Day, I urge all partners and stakeholders to work together to ensure that the necessary investments are made, adequate technical capacity is built, new data sources are explored and innovative processes are applied to give all countries the comprehensive information systems they need to achieve sustainable development,” Mr. Ban said in a message.Stefan Schweinfest, Director of the UN Statistics Division in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, elaborated by saying that “it is clear that the significantly broader development agenda with a higher focus on disaggregation will require more resources, new methodological developments, integration of new data sources with traditional ones, the building of partnerships and increased cooperation within and across countries.”“Sustainable development will need to be supported by sustainable Statistics,” Mr. Schweinfest declared, referring to the newly-adopted UN post-2015 development framework.Mr. Ban said that as countries and organizations embark on implementing the ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, reliable and timely statistics and indicators are more important than ever.“We need to ensure that everyone is counted, especially the most poor and vulnerable,” he said. “No child’s birth shall remain unregistered. No incidence of disease, no matter how remote the location, shall remain unrecorded.”The UN chief said “local statistics” are needed to ensure that every child has access to education while “global statistics” are needed to monitor the effects of climate change.Also marking the Day, the UN Statistics Division will launch in New York the new World’s Women 2015: Trends and Statistics report, which presents the latest statistics and analyses of the status of women and men in areas of concern identified by the landmark 1995 Beijing Platform for Action. It also reviews progress towards gender equality over the past 20 years.Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) will celebrate World Statistics Day with a talk on why investing in primary and secondary data collection and analysis are fundamental for the design and implementation of food assistance programmes worldwide.And the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is releasing today its new FAO Statistical Pocketbook 2015 and a special statistics publication focusing on coffee and includes country profiles with key indicators related to coffee for selected years.