Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers shocked football fans this Saturday. The tournament’s defending champions, Morocco, suffered a 2-1 defeat to South Africa in Johannesburg, a first loss since reaching the 2022 World Cup semifinals. Meanwhile, southern Africa had a reason to celebrate after Zambia trounced Ivory Coast 3-0, booking their spot in the finals for the first time since 2015.
South Africa and Morocco had already qualified for the tournament, and they met in a lively Group K match in Johannesburg, which drew an exciting 50,000 crowd despite the near-freezing temperatures. South Africa took an early five-minute lead when Morocco’s stand-in goalkeeper, Munir el Kajoui, let Percy Tau’s cross slip into the net. Zakhele Lepasa added a second on 48 minutes, and although Hakim Ziyech halved the deficit on the hour, Morocco could not find an equalizer.
South Africa coach Hugo Broos expressed his confidence saying “We could have scored four or five goals against Morocco, who are currently the best team in Africa, and it is a great confidence booster to beat them.” He was delighted about the commendable support from fans and added, “I believe they left the stadium feeling very proud to be South Africans.”
“Call me crazy if you wish for saying that, but you sometimes learn more from a loss than a win. My players were tired after a gruelling season of domestic and World Cup matches,” said Morocco coach Walid Regragui.
Meanwhile, Zambia ended a 21-year wait with a comprehensive victory over the Ivory Coast, who will host the finals in January. The Copper Bullets outsocred the Ivory Coast as they claimed a fourth consecutive Group H victory. Qualifiers Algeria, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Morocco, Senegal, Tunisia, South Africa, and Zambia joined Ivory Coast as the top 10 teams to qualify this season.