Africa: Afcon - South Africa Shock Morocco, Mali Ease Through

31 January 2024

All top five FIFA-ranked teams have been dumped out at AFCON 2023 after South Africa shocked Morocco on Tuesday

The 2023 Africa Nations Cup (AFCON) continues to be a tournament of surprises. A day after the defending champions Senegal, Africa's second-ranked team, were sent packing by the hosts. the top-ranked Morocco team, who made it to the 2022 World Cup semifinals, were sent packing by South Africa.

Two second half goals from Evidence Makgopa including an excellent free-kick by Teboho Mokoena meant that all the top five FIFA-ranked African teams have been sent packing before the quarterfinal stage.

Morocco started the better of the two teams, but Bafana Bafana, under the stewardship of Hugo Broos, stayed compact and gradually played their way into the match. Morocco's manager Walid Regragui had to replace his two dynamic wingers Hakim Ziyech and Sofiane Boufal in the starting 11 because they were both injured and not included in the matchday squad.

Amine Adli had a good chance in the first half, but he dithered and was forced to drag his shot wide. Mokoena tested Bono from distance and won a corner kick. The first 15 minutes had Morocco having almost 75 percent of ball possession, but by the end of the first half, South Africa had whittled that down to 53 percent.

The second half was 12 minutes old when Makgopa got on the end of slick passing in midfield and slotted under Bono. It needed a VAR review, but the South African attacker was onside by a foot. Morocco pushed and won a penalty in the 83rd minute when Mothobi Mvala stopped a goal-bound shot from substitute Ayoub El Kaabi with his arm.

Achraf Hakimi received the responsibility, but Morocco's poster boy could not hold his nerve as he smacked his kick against the crossbar and out. South Africa were not finished as Mokoena won a freekick off Sofyan Amrabat, who was shown a red card. Mokoena took the kick and beat Bono off the right post to send shockwaves across the world and secure a 2-0 victory for South Africa.

South Africa will face Cape Verde on Saturday as Bafana Bafana aim for another semi-final slot.

In the first quarterfinal match on Tuesday, Mali got the better of their West African neighbours, Burkina Faso 2-1. An early own goal from Edmond Tapsoba set the tone as Mali bossed the game and Burkina Faso goalkeeper Herve Koffi needed to make two excellent saves to keep the margin at one.

But it took Mali just one minute to extend their lead in the second half as Lassine Sinayoko beat the offside and slotted past Koffi.

The Stallions were awarded a penalty for a handball on Sikou Niakate after a VAR review, and Burkina Faso, the 2013 AFCON finalists, pulled one back.

Bertrand Traore stepped up to score his third penalty goal in Cote d'Ivoire. They thought they had the equaliser in the 89th minute when Issoufou Dayo headed home, but he was marginally offside and Mali held on to book their quarterfinal place.

Mali's prize is a date with the hosts on Saturday at the Stade de Bouake.

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