In a pivotal match at the Africa Cup of Nations, Morocco’s 1-0 victory over Zambia on Wednesday had significant ramifications, not only confirming their own dominance in Group F but also ensuring Ivory Coast’s advancement to the last 16. This outcome emerged as part of a dramatic final day in the group stage.
Namibia and South Africa Secure Knockout Spots
The day’s events also witnessed Namibia making history by securing a knockout stage berth for the first time, while South Africa too progressed. In contrast, several African football giants faced the repercussions of early exits, leading to managerial changes.
Decisive Moments in Group F
Morocco’s success against Zambia, orchestrated by a late first-half goal from Hakim Ziyech, sealed their group’s top spot and set up a next-round clash with South Africa. However, Morocco will be without coach Walid Regragui on the sidelines due to a suspension.
“We were disappointed with our own result and we were also scared that we might not qualify at our own AFCON. This is a relief. It lifts a weight off our shoulders but now we need to quickly turn our focus to the match against Senegal. We owe the people of Ivory Coast and we have to show them that the result against Equatorial Guinea was an accident,” Emerse Fae, the assistant coach of Ivory Coast, expressed to Canal Plus Afrique.
Ivory Coast’s Rocky Journey
The host nation faced a tumultuous journey, suffering two group-stage losses, a first in 40 years. However, their earlier win proved crucial for progression. The team will now face a challenging match against Senegal under new leadership following the dismissal of coach Jean-Louis Gasset.
DR Congo and Tanzania’s Fate
DR Congo secured their last 16 spot, finishing second in Group F, following a goalless draw with Tanzania, who were eliminated without a tournament win.
Namibia’s Historic Achievement
Namibia’s progress marked a significant milestone, emerging from a draw against Mali. They now face Angola, while Mali, the group leader, prepares for a highly anticipated match against Burkina Faso.
Goalless Draws and Managerial Changes
An unprecedented day of goalless draws included South Africa’s crucial match against Tunisia, leading to Tunisia’s exit and the resignation of their coach Jalel Kadri. Algeria and Ghana also saw managerial changes after their exits.
South Africa’s Defensive Mastery
South Africa’s solid defensive performance against Tunisia, led by players experienced in African football, was key to their progression. Despite being on the backfoot initially, South Africa created significant chances, with Percy Tau’s skillful play standing out.
As the tournament progresses, the focus shifts to the knockout stages, where teams like Morocco, Ivory Coast, Namibia, and South Africa aim to continue their journey, showcasing the unpredictability and excitement of African football.
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