Morocco vs Mali U23 AFCON review: Hosts reign supreme in four-goal thriller

Morocco vs Mali U23 AFCON review: Hosts reign supreme in four-goal thriller
Credit: Iconsport

After Egypt's 1-0 victory over Guinea on Tuesday evening, Morocco and Mali battled for the remaining spot in the U23 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) final.

Interestingly, this was the third encounter between these teams in the last four years. Morocco and Mali previously met in the qualifying rounds of the previous edition of this competition; and the Malians defeated Morocco over two legs. However, things were different on Tuesday night, as it was the tournament's hosts who came out on top.

Being the hosts, Morocco finished at the top of Group A; they were five points ahead of second-placed Guinea, with a perfect three wins from three. On the other hand, Mali won two of three group matches, finishing second in Group B.

Level after 90 minutes

It's important to point out that Morocco came into this match on the back of four consecutive wins. Unsurprisingly, they opened the scoring in the 13th minute, thanks to Zakaria El Ouahdi. Although the Malians tried to draw level before the midway point of the game, it was Morocco who were in control, as they kept 67 percent of the ball in the first half.

Mali started to find their stride in the second half, as they registered three shots in the first 15 minutes. Their efforts were rewarded in the 65th minute, as Mamady Diambou put them on level terms with the hosts. Although both teams had their fair share of chances after that, neither side was able to break through until the end of regulation time.

Extra time and penalties

With both teams tied after 90 minutes, we were treated to another 30 minutes of extra time. The first half of extra time was a bit slow, with both teams playing some conservative football. Amine El Ouazzani found the back of the net just three minutes into the second half, giving the hosts the lead. However, Morocco's joy was short-lived, as Mali equalized just five minutes before the end of extra time, forcing a penalty shootout.

Morocco emerged victorious as they converted four of four attempts from the spot. In contrast, Mali missed two of five attempts, as Hamed Diomande and Boubacar Traore both hit the woodwork, sealing the win for the hosts.

What this result means for both teams

As a result of Tuesday's victory, Morocco will feature in the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. There are three automatic Olympic spots, and two of those were clinched by Egypt and Morocco due to their respective wins on Tuesday. Mali will go up against Guinea on Friday, and whoever wins that match will secure the third spot. On the other hand, Morocco will host defending champions Egypt on Saturday, with the U23 AFCON title on the line.

This article was most recently revised and updated 10 months ago

Kelechi is a huge sports fan with over 10 years of betting experience. He has written thousands of match previews on football, tennis, basketball and American football in the past few years.