With a 1-0 win over Zambia, Morocco advanced to the round of 16 at the Africa Cup of Nations, thanks to a goal by Hakim Ziyech.’
At Stade Laurent Pokou in San Pedro, the lone goal came from the Chelsea midfielder, who is presently on loan at the Turkish club Galatasaray. His goal was a powerful finish seven minutes before halftime.
That was sufficient to secure the three points and first place; after DR Congo and Tanzania played to a scoreless tie, Zambia was eliminated from the competition.
Although both teams played with enthusiasm in the early going, few good opportunities presented themselves. Achraf Hakimi of Morocco and Patson Daka of Zambia both had shots on goal, but neither could find the back of the net.
In a futile attempt to exert themselves as the half progressed, the World Cup semi-finalists—Sofia Boufal twice and Azzedine Ounahi—also made similar mistakes.
In the 30th minute, Kennedy Musonda sent a long-range shot past Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, who was caught off guard. Just seconds later, on the opposite side, defender Frankie Musonda made a crucial block to keep Ismael Saibari from getting to the cross from skipper Ziyech.
The 30-year-old slammed the opening goal within three minutes after goalkeeper Lawrence Mulenga had missed a low cross. Zambia were lucky not to surrender ten minutes before halftime when defender Nayef Aguerd pushed the ball wide from Ziyech’s cross.
Morocco tried to seal the deal with a header from Ayoub El Kaabi, but Mulenga saved the day. Despite being ahead by one goal, they were sent packing.
Walid Regragui’s team continued to push for a second goal after the break, with halftime substitute Amine Adli forcing two saves. Lameck Banda nearly equalized in the 59th minute, though.
As Morocco wore down, Zambia stepped up their game. Substitute Fashion Sakala caused issues, and Lubambo Musonda shot just high. Emmanuel Banda made a save, but Zambia couldn’t recover.
On the other side of the group, in Wednesday’s last Group F match, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania played to a scoreless draw, advancing the Congolese to a quarterfinal meeting with Egypt, the record holders with seven victories.
With three points from three draws, the Congolese finish second in their pool and go on to the next round, where they will meet South Africa. Group winners Morocco also advance.
Although the 12,847 spectators at the Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium didn’t have much to cheer about, they might be happy that Ivory Coast advanced to the round of 16 as a top three finisher.
While Tanzania finished last in their group with two points, the Democratic Republic of the Congo are chasing their first continental crown since 1974 and have yet to win a finals match. On Sunday, the DRC will face Egypt in San Pedro; the last time they defeated Egypt was 50 years ago in a 3-2 semi-final, the route to their title.
Another lackluster performance in front of goal against the Tanzanians—who created almost no scoring opportunities during the match—means they need to step up their оffensive game.
Meschack Elia smashed the ball over the crossbar after collecting a loose ball in the box, while DR Congo attacker Fiston Mayele had a ferocious drive stopped by goalkeeper Aishi Manula in the first half.
As time ran out, Brentford’s Yoane Wissa, a forward from the Congo, pressed for a goal that never came, forcing Manual to make a fantastic finger-tip save. Wissa then fizzed another attempt from 18 yards out that just missed the target.
Mali will finish first, South Africa will finish second, Namibia will finish third, and Tunisia will exit the tournament in last place, since both Group E matches ended in a scoreless draw.