Morocco vs Namibia
Al Salam Stadium, Cairo
Sunday, 23-06-2019 @5:30pm
CAIRO – Morocco will be hoping to get off a winning start at the on-going Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) when they take on Minors-Namibia at the Al Salam Stadium in Cairo on Sunday afternoon.
The Atlas Lions have been under-achievers in the past tournaments with their only triumph coming in the 1976 edition in Ethiopia.
Morocco fell at the last 8 in the 2017 tournament, the first time they had progressed past the group stages since finishing second in Tunisia 200.
After a good showing at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Morocco are one of the strong favourites in the competition this time round.
In manager Herve Renard, Morocco have arguably the best coach in AFCON history, the Frenchman being the only man to win two different titles with separate countries, doing so with outsiders Zambia in 2012 and Ivory Coast three years later.
The game against Namibia will surely have significant implications for the Atlas Lions as on paper, it looks the easiest fixture to negotiate with the others coming against Ivory Coast and South Africa.
Reaching the knock-out stages will be a whole lot tougher for Renard’s side that is if they fail to get three points off Namibia.
For Namibia, they are yet to win a match at the finals, going into their third appearance.
They first qualified in 1998, while they returned 10 years later. In both tournaments, they left the group stage with a single point, while the same could happen this time around.
They’ve landed one of the toughest groups in the tournament, facing Morocco, Ivory Coast and South Africa. Given that line-up, a point might be seen as a success for them.
Namibia head into this tournament having come through one of the easiest groups in qualifying. They were second behind Guinea in Group K, narrowly edging ahead of Mozambique and Zambia.
However, they got through the group having scored just five times in six matches, which shows their lack of quality. Without that cutting edge, we expect Namibia to struggle to pick up points.
What the coaches are saying
Herve Renard, Morocco head coach
“This will be my seventh tournament.
“In terms of the image of Africa, this continent needs to improve because all around the world these days they can watch the tournament.
“This is a key tournament for our football – and I say our football because I consider I am part of Africa too.
“I have been on this continent for so many years now and sometimes I don’t like the image we give to everybody so if we want more positive comments about us to come from other parts of the world then we need to improve.”
Ricardo Mannetti, Namibia head coach
“I would like to remind the big boys that even small dogs have teeth.
“We will be the best underdogs at the AFCON.
“We are not saying that we are going there to beat any big team we will face in our group, but we will take it one game at a time.”
The two nations have met six times in the history so far, with each country hosting three games.
The Moroccans are did not lose any and only the first meeting finished in draw, and Morocco are currently on a five game winning streak over their next opponents.
Morocco and Namibia’s only previous AFCON encounter was in 2008. Morocco won 5-1 in the group stages – it featured the last hat-trick scored in an AFCON game prior to 2019, courtesy of Soufiane Alloudi.
This is Morocco’s 17th AFCON participation – their sole title came in 1976. The only time they’ve reached the final since then was in 2004, losing 2-1 against hosts Tunisia.
Namibia’s six AFCON matches have produced a total of 27 goals, an average of 4.5 per game.
This is Renard’s fifth AFCON as manager – he’s only lost three of his 23 games (W10 D10).
The other games on Sunday
-Senegal vs Tanzania @8pm
-Algeria vs Kenya @11pm