Bafana Bafana tame Atlas Lions – into quarter-final

Bafana Bafana tame Atlas Lions – into quarter-final
Photo by Icon Sport

Bafana Bafana took on the Atlas Lions of Morocco for a place in the quarter-final of AFCON 2023 following their qualification from a group that included Tunisia, Namibia and Mali.

Bafana Bafana sealed a 0-0 draw with the Eagles of Carthage to book their Round of 16 place against Morocco.

Both sides have met at AFCON five times (1998, 2002, 2004, 2013 & 2019), with Bafana Bafana winning twice and losing once.

The encounter between both sides was the second time they were clashing in the AFCON knockout round, but the Atlas Lions have enjoyed success in their last two encounters with South Africa.

Coach Hugo Broos kept Thapelo Maseko on the bench despite his solid performance in their last two games.

Meanwhile, Morocco coach Walid Regragui was without Sofiane Boufal, who copped an injury in training and out of the tournament.

Another Morocco forward, Hakim Ziyech, was also omitted from the squad following a sore ankle from their last game.

Bafana Bafana caused an upset as they beat the Atlas Lions of Morocco 2-0.

Bafana Bafana stop Morocco in an insipid first half

Bafana Bafana v Morocco
Photo by Icon Sport

In the three games that Bafana Bafana played in the group stage, they scored in only one – a 4-0 thrashing of Namibia.

They hoped to get the goals against Morocco to book their quarter-final place.

The game started on a cautious note, with both sides sizing each other up and looking for the chinks in the armour.

South Africa thought they had the first chance in the second minute, but an offside call stopped them.

The Atlas Lions struggled against the press of Bafana Bafana in the early stage of the game. They also found the Bafana Bafana defence impenetrable as they defended tightly and sought to hit the Moroccans on the counter.

The Atlas Lions gradually grew into the game and picked holes in the South African defence, but poor decision-making robbed them of an early goal.

By the tenth minute, the Moroccan side was firmly in control and dictated the game.

In a rare attack in the 15th minute, Mokoena came close to scoring the first goal, but his shot from outside the box was fumbled out for a corner by Bono.

Bafana Bafana was poking the Moroccan defence and could have scored from a corner kick, but the header went over the bar with Bono beaten.

For all the poking and thrusting, it was a cagey affair, with both sides careful not to concede any goal.

Both sides had managed two clean sheets from their last three games.

As the first half wore on, South Africa played more confidently as the Atlas Lions looked tame and far from their 2022 World Cup display that saw them reach the semi-finals.

Morocco came close to breaking the deadlock in the 44th minute. Adli, who had been guilty of poor decisions, made another horrendous decision and was quickly closed down by the Bafana Bafana defence.

One thing was clear – the weather was not friendly as both sides struggled to put in a tight shift.

It was a dreary first half from both sides as it ended 0-0.

Bafana Bafana stunned a rudderless Morocco

Bafana Bafana 2-0 Morocco
Photo by Icon Sport

The second half started with Morocco getting a clean chance in the 46th minute, but Azzedine Ounahi shot over the bar from inside the box.

Six minutes into the second half, Morocco had a big shout for a penalty after Ez Abde went down in the box, but the referee didn’t see enough contact to award it.

Unlike the first half, Bafana Bafana showed the initiative and took the game to their more illustrious opponents, who resorted to playing on the counter.

The deadlock was finally broken in the 57th minute when Evidence Makgopa beat the Moroccan offside flag to slot the ball under the legs of Bono.

There was more verve in the Moroccan attack as they created chances that they failed to take. Despite the chances created, Morocco still looked vulnerable at the back.

South Africa continued to hang on with dogged defending as Morocco continued to pepper their defence in search of an equalizer.

The Moroccan effort finally paid off in the 80th minute as they won a penalty after Mothobi Mvala’s outstretched hand blocked a goal-bound shot. After VAR review, the referee awarded a penalty.

However, Hakimi missed the penalty as his shot cannoned off the upright. The fates seemed to favour Bafana Bafana.

Morocco’s woes were compounded in the 90th minute when they were reduced to ten men. Sofyan Amrabat received a second yellow card. After a VAR review, the referee changed his decision and awarded Amrabat a straight red card.

Off the freekick, Bafana Bafana sealed their place in the quarter-final after Mokoena put his shot beyond the reach of Bono.

A 2-0 win sets a date between South Africa and Vape Verde on Saturday.

Morocco:
Bono, Achraf Hakimi, Romain Saiss, Nayef Aguerd, Noussair Mazraoui, Selim Amallah, Sofyan Amrabat, Azzedine Ounahi, Ez Abde, Youssef En-Nesyri, Amine Adli

Subs: Ayoub El Kaabi, Yunis Abdelhamid, Yahya Attiat-Allah, Chadi Riad, Mohamed Chibi, Amine Harit, Ismael Saibari, Oussama El Azzouzi, Bilal El Khannouss, Amir Richardson, Tarik Tissoudali, Munir

South Africa:
Ronwen Williams, Khuliso Johnson Mudau, Grant Kekana, Mothobi Mvala, Aubrey Modiba, Teboho Mokoena, Sphephelo Sithole, Thapelo Morena, Themba Zwane, Percy Tau, Evidence Makgopa

Subs: Zakhele Lepasa, Veli Mothwa, Ricardo Goss, Nyiko Mobbie, Terrence Mashego, Siyanda Xulu, Nkosinathi Sibisi, Oswin Appollis, Jayden Adams, Thabang Monare, Mihlali Mayambela, Thapelo Maseko

This article was most recently revised and updated 4 weeks ago

Chooka Izuegbuna is a Sports Journalist with 20 years of experience in print, TV and Radio. He has worked with some of the top media houses in Nigeria, including NTA Network, Channels TV, TVC, Silverbird TV and MITV. Chooka broke his sports reporting teeth with The Game Football Weekly in 2003 as a cartoonist and reporter.