Regragui took full responsibility after the game

Morocco fail at Africa Cup of Nations with heavy defeat to South Africa

Walid Regragui, seleccionador de Marruecos – PHOTO/AFP/ISSOUF SANOGO
Walid Regragui, Morocco coach - PHOTO/AFP/ISSOUF SANOGO

"Today is the coach's failure, not the players'. Being knocked out so early was not in our plans, but this competition is very difficult," began Walid Regragui's press conference after losing to South Africa in the last 16 of the Africa Cup of Nations in San-Pédro (Côte d'Ivoire). All eyes are on Morocco's national coach as the man most responsible for the performance of a team that was far from its best.   

Evidence Makgopa and Teboho Mokoena sent the Atlas Lions home. The desolate faces could already be sensed with the first Bafana-Bafana goal, but Morocco's penalty was their salvation to at least force extra time. Paris SG full-back Achraf Hakimi missed the spot-kick in the 86th minute and the game was impossible for the North African side, who were never a shadow of the fourth-placed team at the World Cup in Qatar.   

An absent team, with hardly any chances on goal, and the minutes were ticking away. South Africa's goal did not wake up Regragui's team from their lethargy either, and he was questioned in the press room for his tactical decisions and for not having made the most of the five days' rest they had after the last group game.   

"This is not the end of the world. There are a lot of big teams who also went out in this CAN. We have youngsters who have learned and I am convinced that these youngsters will win a CAN in the future. That's why we are also integrating them," the coach justified himself after the game in an appearance that had far more value than the match.   

Achraf Hakimi had to address the fans after the match to apologise because the missed penalty was much more than a mistake. The possibility of extra time gave hope to the Moroccan fans who had travelled to Côte d'Ivoire to cheer on a team that had become favourites after the elimination of Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Cameroon.   

Achraf Hakimi - PHOTO/FILE

The refereeing had no impact on the result, but the VAR decisions were again disputed, although they awarded a fair penalty in Morocco's favour that the live referee did not see. Romain Saiss (Al-Shabab) said: "We have refereeing meetings before big competitions, but at some point we have to stop taking people for idiots.   

The curse continues for Morocco, who only won one African Cup in 1976. The African giant will have to wait to host the tournament in 2025 and improve its capabilities before taking on the big event alongside Spain and Portugal in 2030.  

As for the competition, South Africa will meet Cape Verde for a place in the semi-finals on Saturday in the capital Yamoussoukro. The remaining Round of 16 matches pit Nigeria and Angola; Mali and Côte d'Ivoire and Congo against Guinea.