Morocco v Benin: Africa Cup of Nations row overshadows friendly

Morocco's removal as host of the Africa Cup of Nations has dominated the build-up to their friendly with Benin on Thursday.

The country had requested the postponement of next year's competition due to the Ebola outbreak in west Africa and failed to confirm its intention to host the tournament last weekend.

CAF confirmed on Tuesday that it had stripped Morocco of the right to host the event - due to begin on January 17 - and that Badou Zaki's men would be disqualified from competing when a new venue was found.

The news leaves coach Zaki in a quandary, with his players no longer preparing to play a major tournament on home soil.

Thursday's friendly fixture goes ahead as planned, however, even though CAF could impose further sanctions on the north Africans.

Zaki sprung a surprise when he recalled Crystal Palace striker Marouane Chamakh and Stoke City midfielder Oussama Assaidi to his squad.

Both have been in poor form of late, with Chamakh having recently been criticised by his club manager Neil Warnock after a string of lacklustre performances, and Assaidi having been left out of Stoke's matchday squad for their last game - a 2-1 victory over Tottenham.

Morocco will miss the attacking flair of midfielder Mbark Boussoufa, who is out injured for both the Benin match and the planned friendly against Zimbabwe on November 16.

Boussoufa has been a key component in Morocco's return of 10 goals in their last three international matches.

Zaki will, however, be able to call upon talismanic Bayern Munich defender Mehdi Benatia, who has just been shortlisted for the African Player of the Year award.

For Benin, head coach Didier Olle-Nicolle will be hoping to avoid a repeat of his team's last outing - a 4-1 hammering by Tanzania on October 12.  The coach blamed the heavy defeat on a lack of preparation and the need for his side to play more games. 

"We didn't train prior to the match, and you could see that we lacked the fighting spirit, we need to play more games in order to do better," Nicolle said.

Nicolle took over from Manuel Amoros in March this year and won his first three matches. But the loss to Tanzania now means the tiny West African nation are looking to avoid their third defeat in a row against Morocco.