Morocco’s national football team of local-based players has qualified for the quarter-finals of the ongoing African Nations Championship (CHAN) in Cameroon.
The Moroccan team secured a spot among the eight finalists after beating Uganda 5-2 today, January 26, during the third round of the competition’s group stage.
Uganda opened the score at the 26th minute with a stunning shot from 22-year-old Ibrahim Orit. The goal seemed to put the Moroccan squad into disbelief for several minutes, before players began gradually regaining the composure they had at the start of the game.
The Moroccan team earned a penalty kick at a crucial time, right before the end of the first half. Wydad Casablanca striker Ayoub El Kaabi, the top scorer of the 2018 CHAN with nine goals, translated the foul into an equalizing goal for Morocco, allowing his teammates to regain some confidence.
The in-between-halves speech from coach Hussein Ammouta seemed to be effective, as Moroccan players entered the field in the second half more determined to fill Uganda’s net with goals.
Raja Casablanca winger Soufiane Rahimi scored the second goal for Morocco at the 51st minute. At the 71st minute, Moghreb Tetouan defender scored Morocco’s third goal.
Despite dominating their opponents with a comfortable margin of two goals, the Moroccan team kept their all-out offensive playing style until Rahimi scored his second goal of the game and the fourth for Morocco at the 80th minute.
Rahimi’s goal, however, seemed to make the Moroccan players too comfortable, leading them to surprisingly concede a second goal from Saidi Kyeyune at the 84th minute of the game.
As the few supporters present at the Stade de la Reunification were beginning to pack up, Raja Casablanca playmaker Abdelilah Hafidi, who was absent from football fields for nearly two months due to injury, scored the fifth goal for Morocco.
Today’s win puts Morocco at the top of Group C, with seven points collected from a 1-0 win against Togo and a 0-0 draw versus Rwanda.
Rwanda comes second with five points, followed by Togo (three points) and Uganda (one point).
In the quarter-finals, Morocco will face either Guinea, Zambia, or Tanzania—to be determined tomorrow, January 27.
The Moroccan team will play the quarter-final on Sunday, January 31. If it further advances to the semi-finals, it will face the winner between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon—the competition’s host country.
As the CHAN titleholder, Morocco is among the tournament’s favorites. More still, the country’s displays in the group stage, especially in the third game, suggest it has the wherewithal to retain its champion title.
Today’s qualification brings the Moroccan squad closer to its objective, but the team still needs to improve its performance if it were to conquer the much stronger opponents that it will face in the direct elimination stage of the competition.
In 2018, the Moroccan team had an impressive performance in the CHAN, ending the tournament in style with a thumping 4-0 win against Nigeria in the final.
This year, however, Morocco is far from its 2018 level. After the first two games, many supporters expressed doubts about Morocco’s offensive prowess.
Some fans have taken to reminiscing about Morocco’s festival of goals when it won the tournament three years ago. Others hope, with today’s win being convincing enough to buttress their sentiment, that the Moroccan squad can still find its way back to their glorious form of 2018.
As debates rage on about the prospects of the Moroccan team, it remains to be seen whether the squad will prove its doubters wrong in the coming games.