AFCON 2023: South Africa’s brilliance sends Morocco packing in continental showdown


South Africa made a resounding statement in the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2023 as they sent home the highest-ranking survivors, Morocco, with a convincing 2-0 victory.

Evidence Makgopa’s decisive goal propelled Bafana Bafana into the quarterfinals, marking their third appearance in the last four AFCON tournaments.The clash showcased the contrasting management styles of the two teams.

Morocco’s Sofyan Amrabat.

Hugo Broos, a 2019 AFCON winner with Cameroon, displayed confidence in continuity, fielding an unchanged lineup with eight Mamelodi Sundowns players.

On the other side, Walid Regragui’s Morocco saw six changes, testing the defensive resilience of Bafana Bafana early on with Youssef En-Nesyri’s offside attempt.

The first half unfolded with limited scoring opportunities, setting the stage for a tense encounter. Teboho Mokoena’s ambitious long-range effort added an element of uncertainty for Morocco’s goalkeeper Yassine Bounou.

The halftime message for Morocco was clear – a call for more attacking intent. Azzedine Ounahi and Oussama El Azzouzi tried to break the deadlock, but Bafana Bafana capitalized on the counter-attack.

In a breakthrough moment, Evidence Makgopa skillfully evaded the offside trap, securing a goal and sending South Africa into jubilation. VAR confirmed the legitimacy of the goal, putting Morocco in an unfamiliar position of having to fight from behind at AFCON 2023.

Morocco’s hopes for a comeback were dealt a severe blow when substitute Ayoub El Kaabi’s close-range effort struck Mothobi Mvala’s hand, resulting in a penalty. However, Achraf Hakimi’s attempt rattled against the crossbar, leaving Morocco in despair.

As the final whistle approached, Sofyan Amrabat’s red card further compounded Morocco’s woes. Teboho Mokoena capitalized on a free-kick opportunity, delivering a spectacular goal into the top-left corner, sealing Bafana Bafana’s progress to the next round.

With another major contender eliminated, South Africa’s coach Hugo Broos emphasized that “nothing is impossible,” igniting newfound belief as they aim to end 28 years of AFCON title drought in just 12 days’ time.

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