Nordin Amrabat says it would be “fantastic” if Morocco qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 20 years.
The Watford wide man was part of the side that kicked off their bid to make Russia in 2018 with a goalless draw on Saturday against a Gabon side featuring Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, one-time Watford target Mario Lemina and Sunderland’s record signing Didier Ndong.
“It would be fantastic to qualify for the World Cup not only for our players but for our people,” Amrabat said in an interview with the Watford FC matchday programme. “The last time we qualified was 1998, so that’ll be 20 years when the next World Cup comes around. We have Gabon, Ivory Coast and Mali in our group so we know it won’t be easy. Sometimes we can have problems if we miss important players who are injured, so hopefully everybody will be fit and we’ll get off to a good start.”
Amrabat, who is good friends with Dutch international Ibrahim Afellay, was born in Holland and was expected to graduate to the Oranjes’ full side after earning under-21 honours. But he opted to turn down the country of his birth and play for Morocco, the birthplace of his parents, instead.
“I was very close [to playing for Holland],” he said. “I played for Holland at Under-21 level and that was good for me. because travelling to Morocco every time, when you are 18 or 19, is not ideal. I was doing well so they invited me to train with the [Holland] senior team for two weeks. I think it was in 2009. it was a year before the World Cup so I trained with them, before a qualification game. I didn’t play in the game but If I had I wouldn’t have been able to play for Morocco so it’s funny how things work out.”
Amrabat made his debut for Morocco against Uganda in 2011 and scored his first international goal two days later against Cameroon. He has won 24 caps.
“My parents are from Morocco and I’ve spent a lot of time there on holiday and visits over the years,” he said. “It’s a fantastic country and I’m proud to play for them. I’ve had some good experiences with Morocco – we’ve competed in the Olympics and the African Cup of Nations, but unfortunately we haven’t won any trophies. But from 2011 until now I’ve had five years where I’ve almost played every game. I think I’ve played 90 per cent of the games, and it’s only when I’ve been injured that I’ve missed games, so I’m very grateful for the experiences I’ve had so far.”