Monday, 8 February 2021

Morocco Defeats Mali 2-0 To Retain African Nations Championship Title


The Atlas Lions became the first team ever to retain the African Nations Championship as they defeated the Eagles in Sunday's final

Morocco scored two second-half goals to defeat Mali 2-0 in the final of the African Nations Championship on Sunday, becoming the first team to retain the title in the competition’s history.

Soufiane Bouftini opened the scoring in the 69th minute after Mali had held firm for over and hour, but Ayoub El Kaabi added another 10 minutes later to take the contest beyond the Eagles.

To add insult to injury, Issaka Samake was sent off for Mali in the 93rd minute as their otherwise impressive Chan campaign ended on a sour note. 

Despite entering the tournament as favourites, Morocco started the tournament sluggishly—with a narrow 1-0 victory over Togo before they were held 0-0 by Rwanda in Douala.

Things heated up in their final group game—a 5-2 rout of Uganda—before they cruised past Zambia and Cameroon in the quarter-final and semi-final respectively to reaffirm their status as tournament favourites.

Mali, meanwhile, went the distance in both of their knockout games—requiring penalties against Congo-Brazzaville and Guinea—and fatigue eventually told for them during the final stages of Sunday’s encounter.

The West Africans had the better of the early stages of the contest, but conspired to miss several chances, efforts they were later left to rue. In one instance, Moussa Kone was denied by Anas Zniti, while Demba Diallo was also thwarted by the crossbar.

After the pause, Mali had another excellent chance to open the scoring, but Sadio Kanoute's effort struck the woodwork as an opportunity went begging.

Bouftini opened the scoring in style 20 minutes from time with an emphatic header, before El Kaabi's diving effort sealed the title with 10 minutes on the clock.

While Morocco’s dominance told in the possession stakes—they saw 63 percent of the ball—Mali maintained more of a threat on the counterattack, and ended the game with 10 shots to the Atlas Lions’ seven.

He may not have scored in the final, but Morocco’s Soufiane Rahimi ended the tournament as the top scorer—with five goals—and the Raja Casablanca man also won the Player of the Tournament award.

On Saturday, hosts Cameroon were defeated 2-0 by Guinea in the third-placed playoff as they ended their own campaign on a flat note. The Indomitable Lions conceded six goals across their final two fixtures, having been outclassed 4-0 by Morocco in their semi-final.

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