Africa Cup of Nations sees Algeria and Tunisia bow out and Egypt suffer

Morocco through in the group stage to meet South Africa in the last 16

Selección de Marruecos- AFP/GLYN KIRK
Selección de Marruecos- AFP/GLYN KIRK

Morocco did their homework in the Africa Cup of Nations group stage with seven points, five goals scored and one conceded in the first three matches. The 3-0 win over Tanzania was to be expected for a team expected to lift the trophy. Then came the surprise 1-1 draw with Congo, who went through as group runners-up, and the 1-0 win over Zambia thanks to Ziyech's goal, but with a late fightback.   

Regragui is very clear about the team with which he wants to lift this trophy after last doing so in 1976. In the first match against Tanzania, Saiss, Ounahi and En-Nesyri scored the goals for the Atlas Lions. In the second match against Congo, Hakimi opened the scoring, but the equaliser in the 76th minute shocked the Moroccans who had already made five changes and could not get on the scoreboard. Against Zambia, Ziyech's goal was enough in a match where Regragui again moved the bench.   

The temperatures do not help to see good football in the Africa Cup of Nations being held in Ivory Coast. Temperatures of up to 38 degrees in the middle of the day cause a slow game and a lot of fatigue in players who, for the most part, come from other latitudes where they are in the middle of winter and it is difficult to adapt.   

Tunisia and Algeria are the two big disappointments of the African tournament. The Tunisians lifted the tournament 20 years ago against Morocco and Algeria in 2019 against Senegal. Two teams called to go far but who have succumbed at the first hurdle in groups where they should have had no problems. Tunisia lost to Namibia and drew with South Africa and Mali. Two points were not enough to send Kadri Jalel's team home.   

In the case of Algeria, Belmadi Djamel's side drew with Angola and Burkina Faso, but lost the final match against Mauritania, leaving them as one of the best third-placed teams in the Round of 16.   

Walid Regragui, Morocco coach - PHOTO/FILE

The Round of 16 are on the cards in the Cup in Côte d'Ivoire, where the heat is not likely to let up. Nigeria and Cameroon will play one of the most interesting matches of the round. Morocco will have to perform at a better level than they have shown so far because they face South Africa. The other big game in the Round of 16 will be Egypt-Congo to see what the runners-up, led by Salah, can do.   

In addition, the Guineas will play a historic match to reach the quarter-finals. Reigning champions Senegal will face Côte d'Ivoire. Mali and Burkina Faso will be looking to advance, along with Cape Verde and Mauritania and the last match of the round, Angola-Namibia.   

The road ahead for Morocco lies in overcoming the high temperatures and seeing how Senegal and, of course, Egypt, the other great favourites to win the tournament par excellence on the African continent, perform.