Sellami explains decision to preserve Nayef Aguerd for Sudan clash

Nayef Aguerd & Jawad El Yamiq of Morocco Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

Jamal Sellami has explained his decision to retain the impressive Nayef Aguerd as the sole survivor from his starting Morocco XI against Sudan, shedding light on the African Nations Championship hosts' remarkable strength in depth.

Jemal Sellami opted to almost completely reshuffle Morocco's starting team for their final CHAN group game against Sudan, with centre-back Nayef Aguerd retained as the sole survivor.

Sellami justified his decision to introduce 10 new players to the team - including back-up goalkeeper Abdelaali M'Hamdi - after the match, and also expressed his confidence that the bold move will ultimately be to the hosts' advantage.

However, Sellami's reshuffle didn't initially explain why he opted to retain Aguerd - one of Morocco's stand-out stars so far - rather than introduce reserve centre-back Marouane Hadhoudi to the team alongside Jawad El Yamiq.

When asked by KweséESPN to explain the intriguing decision to keep only the impressive Aguerd in the side, Sellami shed light on Morocco's strategy to ensure familiarity between all of their possible and potential central defensive partnerships.

"El Yamiq and [Badr] Benoun are the centre-backs of Raja [Casablanca]," Sellami began, highlighting the understanding that already exists between this duo. "Benoun played with Nayef in the first two games, while in the preparation match, Hadhoudi played alongside Nayef.

"[On Sunday] I played Aguerd with El Yamiq, because it's important to play all of them with each other," Sellami continued, "because we don't know what will happen in the future.

"I could have taken off Aguerd for Hadhoudi," the coach concluded, "but having not scored, I wanted to keep our defence solid."

While Morocco failed to beat Sudan in their final group match, settling for a 0-0 draw, the contest - against one of the dark horses for the CHAN title - clearly afforded Sellami the luxury of examining one of his underused defensive pairings and giving Aguerd and El Yamiq the chance to develop an understanding.

It's yet more evidence of the remarkable strength in depth the Atlas Lions boast at the CHAN, and further underpins their status as favourites to win the title on home soil.

Morocco continue their CHAN campaign against Group B runners up Namibia in the first quarter final in Casablanca on Saturday.