(MENAFN - Morocco World News) Mehdi Benatia has high hopes for the Moroccan team in the lead up to the Africa Cup of Nations. The defender, who currently plays for the club Bayern Munich, expressed his ambitions for the Moroccan team, nicknamed the Lions of the Atlas, on FIFA''s official website.
Moroccans were the first to qualify for the 2017 African Cup of Nations, which will take place in Gabon. Although the team has already qualified, Benatia warned players to keep their heads on their shoulders and avoid cutting corners. He asserts that the Lions must rebuild the team and the integrate new players. Benatia wants to go as far as possible in this competition. If the team wins, they will automatically qualify for the Confederations Cup, “Every team wants a title, and we would be proud to win this one. Without this [victory-oriented] mindset, it would be better to stay at home.'' Participating in the 2018 World Cup, which will be held in Russia, is the ambitious long-term goal for Benatia and his teammates. A potential qualification would be the first for the national teamin twenty years. Bentaia noted that he would be proud to represent his country in Russia, but the journey would be long and difficult. He said that he prefers to focus on the upcoming African Cup matches first. Mehdi Benatia will undoubtedly closely follow what happens in Cairo on June 24, where the draw organizing the groups for the African zone of the World Cup qualifiers will take place. Benatia says that the neighboring teams they will compete against ''are of a high level: Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt are strong. We respect everyone without fearing any one team. I do not wish to avoid any particular team, but just like any player, I''m hoping the draft is favorable. It would be nice to not confront the best teams of the continent, but I repeat that we fear no one.'' Edited by Bryn Miller