AFCON 2023: Morocco expresses optimism after the draw


Read Time: 4 minutes

After closely following the AFCON 2023 draw, Moroccans are generally confident.For most, the national eleven will have to go for the trophy, especially as the squad is rich and young. SNA spoke to some Atlas Lions fans. Let’s take a look.

Sport News Africa interviewed a number of Moroccans, particularly from the sporting world, after the draw for the group stages of the AFCON 2023 in Côte d’Ivoire. And overall, they are satisfied with their group, made up of the DRC, Tanzania and Namibia.Most feel that the Atlas Lions have no right to make a mistake on Ivorian soil.

“We’ll already be in perhaps the quietest and most beautiful city in Côte d’Ivoire. San Pedro, on the coast, is very calm, far from the hustle and bustle of Abidjan, for example. So that will be an advantage. As for the opponents, since the draw was simplified, the four in the group are very evenly matched. All the groups seem balanced and we’re expecting balanced matches too,” comments Aziz Daouda, Technical and Development Director of the Confederation of African Athletics and a staunch Atlas Lions fan.

“Morocco were certainly in Pot 1, but nothing is won in advance. We’ll have to play soccer and not ball games.In other words, we’ll have to be pragmatic during the AFCON 2023. We’re certainly favourites in the group, but we have to take our opponents seriously, even the team in pot 4,” he continues. For Mr. Daouda, “it’s not about playing well, it’s about winning. The aim will be to rack up a string of victories to stay top of the group and make it through to the next stage of the competition. It’s a competition we’ll have to manage.

Hicham L., who works in the web development sector, is of a similar opinion. But for him, Morocco will have to be wary of teams like the DRC, who already beat them in the AFCON a few years ago.“These are bad memories.It’s true that we’re favourites, but playing conditions vary in Africa, and the timing of matches and the climate could also influence our performance,” he says.“No room for complacency.

In any case, Morocco are out to prove that their success at the World Cup was no fluke. With a historic fourth-place finish, their fans are finally waiting for a trophy to crown this epic achievement.

“We don’t have the right not to be optimistic. In fact, we have an obligation to be optimistic.We were the best African team at the World Cup, and now we have to prove, a year later, that this result was no fluke.We have to show that it’s the fruit of a lot of hard work by the Federation, and that our run to the World Cup was no accident,” explains Mr. Daouda.

For Mr. Daouda, Morocco’s matches will be scrutinized by the whole continent, which is why results are essential.“It’s up to us to prove our worth”.

Another, however, is much more measured. “For several editions now, we’ve been saying that we have an easy group and that we’re going to win, but the last Cup dates back to 1976. So let’s be wary!

Beware of Senegal, Algeria and Egypt

Although Atlas Lions fans are approaching the AFCON 2023 with confidence, they remain on their guard for fear of a nasty surprise. “For me, there isn’t just one favorite. If we take the criteria of titles, it will be Egypt.If we take the last editions as a yardstick, this status will go to Algeria, crowned champions in 2019, and Senegal, victorious in 2021 and runners-up in 2019. Côte d’Ivoire will even be the favorite as two-time African champions and hosts of the competition.I think it’s going to be a very open competition. It’s good for African soccer that there isn’t just one favorite,” says our first interviewee.

For others, the status of favorite can become a trap for a great team, because a selection can take part in a major competition without being widely expected, because it has been well prepared for the occasion.

Not a dress rehearsal for 2025

The Moroccans have high expectations, as Côte d’Ivoire is also home to a large diaspora.And, as in Qatar, the national team will be able to count on the support of its fans, who will be turning out in droves. But among soccer fans, this AFCON should not be seen as a preparation for the 2025 tournament.“We’re still in 2023. And in two years, things can change.In soccer, everything moves very fast.I think it’s journalists who make these kinds of predictions, but technicians think differently. There will be new players to integrate, and others who will leave because they’re no longer performing well. When we talk about a team, we’re talking about constant renewal,” stresses our interviewee.

Improving the image of African soccer during AFCON

On another front, the fans are hoping for a competition without any controversy in terms of organization (bonuses, accommodation, state of the pitches, refereeing errors, etc.). “The paradox again in Africa is that professionals are sometimes managed by amateurs.And when certain problems occur in a team, it’s the image of all African soccer that takes a hit”, regrets Daouda.“Players are not machines, there are affinities to be had, a sociology to be respected…That’s where professionalism comes into play and becomes important,” he stresses.


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