AFCON 2023: 10-man Morocco Succumb to South Africa

The best on paper, Atlas Lions have had their Africa Cup of Nations dreams abruptly hit the rocks after their Round of 16 game against South Africa at the Laurent Pokou Stadium in San Pedro.

They lost by 2-0 to Bafana Bafana, eliminating the only remaining North African country on the AFCON race list.

After a goalless affair in the first half with many missed clear-cut chances for both sides, South Africa finally came through with a 57th-minute opener through the effort of Evidence Makgopa after consistent pushes.

Morocco had their attempts to equalize firmly denied by goalkeeper Ronwen Williams and the Bafana Bafana defenders in an intense fight-back.

A golden chance to level finally came when a handball on Teboho Mokoena was verified by the VAR six minutes to the end of the game but Achraf Hakimi failed to convert as it hit the woodwork, sending South African fans into frenzy and Moroccans into despair.

The favourites were reduced to 10 men in 90 minutes when Manchester United’s defensive midfielder Sofyan Amrabat was sent off after bagging a red card for a crucial tackle on Teboho Mokoena.

An awarded free kick to Mokoena in added time saw the lead doubled for his side to seal their run to the quarter-finals and end the dreams of the 2022 World Cup Semi-finalists.

At a post-match press conference, South Africa’s head coach, Hugo Bross said his side’s strategy was to get onto the scoreline first which was skillfully executed by the players.

“In the first half, we tried to contain them and cut off their passing lines. In the second, the game opened up and we scored. We knew that whoever scores first in the match will have a big advantage.”

Meanwhile, Morocco’s head coach, Walid Regragui, expressed disappointment and hopes his side will take a cue from the defeat for future campaigns.

“We fought until the end with our weapons. I am disappointed for our supporters who deserved much better. Personally, I felt we were capable of bringing this cup home. But that didn’t happen. I hope my players will learn, especially the younger ones.”

South Africa will face Cape Verde in the quarter-finals.

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