After yet another brilliant season in the Eredivisie, Hakim Ziyech is in the form of his life and looks to lead Morocco to World Cup glory.
The attacking midfielder provides the main creative spark in this Moroccan side and will hope to continue his fabulous form from this past season with Ajax – form that saw him voted Dutch Footballer of the Year by fellow professionals in the Eredivisie and the Eerste Divisie. In addition, he has been the assist leader in three of the last four Eredivisie seasons. However, to say he is just a provider is unfair to his goal scoring ability. He has been a consistent goal scorer in the Eredivisie scoring at least nine goals in each of the last five seasons.
While these stats are impressive, they do not paint the picture of how exciting Ziyech is to watch. With a wand of a left foot, and vision on par with the world’s most elite playmakers, Ziyech has the ability to unlock a defensive block with a single pass. He is also able to move the ball from side-to-side with ease and accuracy – not to mention his phenomenal whipped-in delivery from set pieces or from the half spaces. Another area where Ziyech excels is his tight dribbling: Ziyech has fantastic ball retention and most of his successful dribbles come from escaping tight pressure in the middle of the park, whilst under attack from the opposition.
Perhaps the most surprising part about the attacking midfielder’s game is his relentless pressure. When Ajax lose the ball, Ziyech presses like a mad man. While not always winning the ball (only 1.6 successful tackles out of 3.7 attempted), he often forces opposition into making a rushed pass or a heavy touch, where an Ajax teammate will win possession. Everything about Ziyech’s playing style fits exactly with what Morocco manager, Hervé Renard, has instilled in the squad: defensive discipline and a high tempo attacking style.
Unfortunately for Morocco, they were drawn into a group with European giants Spain and Portugal which will make it difficult for them to make it to the knockout round. Even for a side that did not concede any goals in qualifying, escaping the group is a daunting task.
Regardless of how far the African country go, expect midfielder Hakim Ziyech to be one to watch.