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AFCON of upsets as South Africa crashes Morocco's trophy dream

Posted : 31 January 2024

The Bafana Bafana of South Africa created the final upset of the 2023 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) on Tuesday at the Stade Pedro, as they dismantled the tournament's top-ranked team and favorites, the Atlas Lions of Morocco, with a resounding 2-0 victory.

For the record, the Atlas Lions of Morocco hold the highest ranking in Africa, positioned at number one, while South Africa is ranked 12th.

South Africa showed no deference to the World Cup fourth-placed team, consistently outplaying them throughout the match.

An essential point to note about this defeat is that Morocco's exit from the AFCON completes the list of the top five ranked teams in Africa that have been eliminated from the competition. Notably, all African Arab countries, including Morocco, Senegal, Tunisia, Algeria, and Egypt, have been ousted.

Zwane initiated South Africa's offensive, connecting with Orlando Pirates' Evidence Makgopa, who capitalized on Morocco's defensive lapse to score the opener in the 57th minute.

In the 82nd minute, South Africa faced misfortune when the ball struck the hand of one of their defenders. In typical North African style, the Moroccans rushed the referee, pressuring him for a penalty. Amidst the confusion, the referee issued yellow cards to both sides.


A few minutes later, there was a VAR check, resulting in a penalty kick. However, Morocco's Achraf Hakimi sent the ball to the uprights.

Morocco's troubles escalated as Sofyan Awrabat received a straight red card for a careless tackle on South Africa's Mokoena in the 90+4 minute.

The subsequent free-kick, taken by Mamelodi Sundown’s Teboho Mokoena from 25 meters away, sailed fantastically into the net, beating Morocco's goalkeeper Bono hands down in the 90+5 minute, leaving Moroccan fans in dismay.

South Africa's victory signifies the elimination of all North African teams from the competition. They now advance to face Cape Verde in the quarterfinals on Saturday.

In the six matches played between Africa’s number one team Morocco and South Africa, Morocco won twice, South Africa won once, and there were three draws. The AFCON matches played on 5th February 2004 and 28th January 2013 ended in 1-1 draws, while a friendly match on 12th October 2013 also ended 1-1. Subsequent AFCON matches saw Morocco win on 2nd July 2019, Morocco again winning 2-1 on 10th June 2023, and South Africa winning 2-1 on 17th June 2023.

In Group E, South Africa secured 4 points, scoring 4 goals and conceding 2 goals, with Mali leading the group and Namibia and Tunisia at the bottom. South Africa suffered a 0-2 loss to Mali, defeated the Brave Warriors of Namibia 4-0, and played to a goalless draw with Tunisia.



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