Soccer Betting News - SA's Leading Soccer Betting Newspaper: 2023 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifier: Morocco vs South Africa Preview

2023 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifier: Morocco vs South Africa Preview

This week Bafana Bafana travelled to Casablanca, Morocco, for a highly anticipated Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier against the Atlas Lions. The game on Thursday night comes off the backdrop of South African sides struggling against Moroccan sides in CAF competitions last season.

AmaZulu FC, who featured in the CAF Champions League for the first time in their history, were knocked out in the group stages largely due to their three losses, two of which came against Moroccan giants, Raja Casablanca. Meanwhile, in the CAF Confederations final, Orlando Pirates also lost their second chance at continental glory to Moroccan opposition, RS Berkane who beat them on penalties.

What further spices up this game was the handing of the CAF Champions League final hosting duties to Morocco, a decision that was heavily criticized by Al Ahly South African coach, Pitso Mosimane, who lost the final with fellow South African and Bafana Bafana international, Percy Tau.

The focus now though is on how these teams match up against each other on the field. Mcebo Mpungose previews the first game in Group K.

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Africa Cup of Nations Qualifier
Thursday 9 June 
Stade Prince Moulay Abdallah 
21:00

To Win (90 mins) 
Morocco 5/10
Draw 5/2
South Africa 17/2

Morocco

While there’s been a good feeling about the Bafana side in SA, Moroccans can say the same thing about their current crop of players. Over 90% of the Moroccan squad is based in Europe, and while Moroccan teams have done well in CAF competitions, winning both the CAF CL and the CAF Confederations cup, nothing compares to the level of football played in Europe. 

Morocco has players who have featured in the UEFA Champions League and Europa League last season, players who have been a part of their clean job qualifying for the Qatar World Cup without losing a single game. 

The Atlas Lions will probably feel they could have done better by going past the quarter-final stage in the 2021 AFCON, where they were knocked out by Egypt. A small concern for Morocco will be the fact that they failed to register a goal against the USA in their last international friendly, even though they created more chances. Their main striker, Youssef En-Nesyri, struggled for form last season, scoring only five goals in 23 games for Sevilla in La Liga. This is a big fall from the 18 goals he managed the season before.

Morocco’s attacks will largely depend on their attacking full-backs Hakimi and Mazrou, with Hakimi possibly playing further up the flank due to his crossing ability. Hakimi will also be a key player on set pieces, with anything around the box a potential shot at goal for him.

On set pieces, Saiss has also proven at Wolves that he can cause problems for opposition with his height. 

South Africa

Bafana Bafana head into this game on the back of a 5-0 drubbing to world champions, France, in a friendly game that felt like a practice game for the French. To be quite honest, not much was expected from Bafana in this game except showing a fighting spirit while keeping football basics against a star-studded European team. 

While Morocco is an African team, most of their squad is based in Europe, featuring players such as Achraf Hakimi (PSG), Youssef En-Nesyri (Sevilla), Romain Saiss (Wolves), and Noussair Mazraoui (Bayern). 

In the first few months after taking over the Bafana team, Hugo Broos opted for players based in South Africa, mainly due to different lockdown regulations that were still in effect in different countries, which made it tricky to always get players outside the country. This was a welcomed change with DStv Premiership players getting much-needed international experience which has helped the team improve in recent months. 

There was genuine optimism about Bafana qualifying for the Qatar World Cup, falling short mainly because of officiating mistakes that went against them. There’s a good feeling about the Broos-led Bafana team because of what they’ve been able to achieve in the field of play, and there’s some optimism about the team qualifying for AFCON 2023. 

Hugo's plans have been slightly negatively affected by Terrence Mashego’s knee injury, Broos’ preferred left wing-back. He still has really good options in that position though, with Mamelodi Sundowns’ Lyle Lakay ready to slot in.

The rest of the back four will be a new look from what we have gotten used to with Siyanda Xulu and Nkosinathi Sibisi missing out. 

In midfield, Broos has interestingly opted for four players, meaning he knows exactly what he wants in that area of the field. South Africans have been yearning to see more of Sphelele ‘Yaya’ Sithole, while Goodman Mosele and Phathutshedzo Nange both showed great form towards the end of last season in the DStv Premiership. 

Still, Bafana’s biggest area of concern over the years has been hitting the back of the net. Maybe this is why Broos has opted to call up seven forwards that include Percy Tau, Fagrie Lakay, Thembinkosi Lorch and Lyle Forster. Without a recognized creative midfielder, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tau slotting in on the number 10 role behind the main striker seeing as he struggles a bit when attacking from the flank these days. 

The type of players Broos has called up suggests he wants to match Morocco’s playing style and go for it, but he will settle for a draw away from home.

Prediction: Morocco (5/10)

I'm backing a Morocco win but I can’t rule out Bafana nicking something from this game, so, I will double chance it with a draw. 

Written by Mcebo Mpungose