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Morocco’s Cup of Nations calamity contrasts with World Cup heroics

Romain Saiss of Morocco's consoles team-mate Achraf Hakimi after the team were knocked out of the Africa Cup of Nations in the Round of 16 clash against South Africa at Laurent Pokou Stadium, San Pedro, Ivory Coast on January 30, 2024
Romain Saiss of Morocco's consoles team-mate Achraf Hakimi after the team were knocked out of the Africa Cup of Nations in the Round of 16 clash against South Africa at Laurent Pokou Stadium, San Pedro, Ivory Coast on January 30, 2024
Image: SIPHIWE SIBEKO / REUTERS

Another African Cup of Nations calamity for Morocco keeps up a consistent sequence of failures in the tournament that contrasts starkly with their performance at the last World Cup.

Morocco became the first African side to reach the World Cup semi-finals some 14 months ago and went into the Cup of Nations finals as favourites.

Prior to the tournament, they had one loss in 12 games and invested heavily in their preparations, including arriving a week before kick-off in the Ivory Coast to adjust to the severe heat and suffocating humidity.

But their hopes ended on Tuesday with elimination in the last 16, keeping up their poor record in the Cup of Nations, which they have won only once some 48 years ago.

They were beaten 2-0 by South Africa in another of the upset results that have characterised the tournament.

Morocco were making a 19th finals appearance but their win in 1976 remains their single tournament triumph, contrasting with six World Cup finals appearances from 1970 when Africa had limited representation.

Over the last decade, Morocco have gone into the Cup of Nations highly fancied and with many key players based at top European clubs, as well as resources that almost all African countries can only dream of.

But the Cup of Nations remains an unfathomable bogey for them, as coach Walid Regragui said.

“For us Morocco, the reality is that the Cup of Nations is always a complicated tournament,” he told Reuters.

“This is not the first time Morocco arrived as favourite and a potential winner. Before almost every finals, we are among the favourite nations for the title. But unfortunately, we have not managed to be regularly among the last four in this tournament. Our last final was in 2004.”

Morocco’s record in the knockout stage is poor. They have not got past the quarter-final stage in their last eight Cup of Nations finals, and of the 15 knockout matches they have contested at the tournament, they have won four.

“We are sad for ourselves, and all the Moroccans who expected a lot from us,” added captain Romain Saiss.

“This Cup of Nations is a bit crazy, we should have done better. You have to be able to kill matches, especially when you have the opportunity. We will have to raise our heads and stop making this kind of mistake.” — Reuters

 

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