AFCON 2023: Tournament Favourites Morocco Knocked Out By South Africa

Just one year after making the semifinals of the World Cup, Morocco were left heartbroken after a 2-0 defeat to South Africa in the Round of 16 at AFCON 2023. Morocco are Africaโ€™s top-ranked side according to FIFA rankings but havenโ€™t been able to win a continental title since 1976.

Evidence Makgopa opened the scoring with a neat finish in the 57th minute, despite a long VAR check for offside. Achraf Hakimi got a great opportunity to equalize after a Mothobi Mvala handball on Ayoub El Kaabiโ€™s shot. He was unable to convert the spot kick however, hitting the penalty against the crossbar to keep Morocco scoreless. 

Things got worse for Morocco nearing the end as Manchester United midfielder Sofyan Amrabat was ejected in stoppage time. Shortly after Teboho Mokoena curled a free-kick past Bono to put South Africa up 2-0 and confirm the upset.

Youssef En-Nesyri of Morocco and Khuliso Johnson Mudau of South Africa during the TotalEnergies Caf Africa Cup of Nations

It should be noted that injuries meant Morocco were short of forwards Hakim Ziyech and Sofiane Boufal, two of their big match players. Even without two of their best offensive weapons, Morocco were able to get 13 shots on goal compared to the 5 of South Africa. 

Amine Adli and Selim Amallah had some excellent chances but they were sent wide after getting into the box.  Much credit also needs to be given to the South African defense which managed to deflect a number of balls which could have been deadly.

South Africa, the 1996 champions, will now take on Cape Verde in their quarter final matchup. After losing in the quarter finals last AFCON they will be keen to improve upon their performance at this yearโ€™s edition.

If South Africa can make it past Cape Verde they will meet either Nigeria or Angola in the Semi final. Cape Verde has shown they can score, collecting 7 goals in the group stage and beating Mauritania 1-0 in the Round of 16. 

South Africa might not have come into the tournament as one of the favourites but after beating Morocco, they have shown they can beat anyone on their day. Expect a high scoring game with Cape Verde which may come down to which team makes less mistakes.

Mali Advance to Quarterfinals After Beating Burkina Faso, 2-1

Mali reached the quarter-finals of the competition for the first time since 2013 by defeating Burkina Faso by the score of 2-1. Lassine Sinayoko scored his third goal of the tournament which ended up being the game-winner.

This was only the second Africa Cup of Nations meeting between the two west African neighbours. Mali won the earlier contest as well, 3-1, which took place in Tunisia 20 years ago. 

Mali got on the board early via an Edmond Tapsoba own goal just three minutes into the match. A powerful Amadou Haidara header rebounded off the crossbar, struck the left foot of Tapsoba and took it past the goalkeeper.

They went two goals up just a couple minutes into the second half, when Sinayoko pushed ahead of Tapsoba and got one past Koffi with an angled shot. With the score 2-0 and not much in terms of offense for Burkina Faso, the match seemed almost over.

Burkina Faso were able to pull one goal back however in the 57th minute. Boubakar Kouyate handled a cross which ended up with Traore converting his third penalty of the tournament. 

Defender Dayo thought he had leveled the match in the final minute of regular time by heading a free-kick past Diarra, but was ruled offside. Mali went on to hold off Burkina Faso to narrowly escape, 2-1.

Mali will next play hosts Ivory Coast in their quarterfinal in Bouake on Saturday with a place in the semi-final on the line. Ivory Coast were able to overcome one of the tournament favourites, Senegal, in a penalty shootout to make it through the Round of 16.

With the home crowd behind them and confidence from beating Senegal, Ivory Coast should hold the edge in the matchup. Mali however do have a few superstars that could pose a threat and have looked solid all tournament.ย