South Africa Shocks Morocco With 2-0 Upset To Reach AFCON Quarter-finals

Morocco, a strong contender in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), has been eliminated from the tournament in the last-16 stage with a 2-0 loss to South Africa. Goals from Evidence Makgopa and Teboho Mokoena secured South Africa’s place in the quarter-finals, while Morocco’s Achraf Hakimi missed a late penalty. This follows the exit of another tournament favourite, Senegal, who were defeated on penalties by the Ivory Coast. Egypt, the runners-up from the previous AFCON, were also eliminated in the last-16 stage after a penalty shootout loss to DR Congo.

South Africa took the lead in the 57th minute with Makgopa’s goal. Morocco had a chance to equalise in the 84th minute when Ayoub El Kaabi’s shot hit the arm of defender Mothobi Mvala, resulting in a penalty awarded after a VAR review. However, Hakimi’s penalty kick hit the crossbar, denying Morocco the opportunity to level the score. Later in the match, Morocco’s Sofyan Amrabat received a second yellow card, which was upgraded to a straight red card after a VAR review. This left Morocco with ten men on the field. Mokoena then scored from the resulting free-kick, sealing South Africa’s victory.

Morocco had previously reached the semi-finals of the 2022 World Cup, an impressive feat which made them the first African team to achieve such a milestone. However, their journey in this year’s AFCON has come to an early end. Coach Walid Regragui expressed regret over missed chances, acknowledging that at this level of competition, any wasted opportunity can result in immediate punishment.

South Africa was being considered underdogs before the match. Their victory surprised many considering their poor start to the tournament. Notably, African football icon Samuel Eto’o expressed frustration over South Africa’s initial performances, believing that the nation possesses enough resources to support football development. Zambian politician Joseph Kalimbwe had dismissed South Africa’s chances in the AFCON. He said on 19 January:

Not to hate or anything but in this AFCON 2024, they won’t go anywhere these ones. The Phala Phala boys; this is football Sichaba Sa Naha – its not some Kwasa Kwasa or Amapiano Dance Competition !!!

Bafana bafana South Africa

His own country’s journey in the tournament also ended with a 1-0 defeat against Morocco. Zambia finished third in their group, failing to advance to the knockout stage. They are former AFCON champions.

South Africa will face Cape Verde in the quarter-finals on Saturday.

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