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Nigeria, Morocco battle for glory in CHAN final

By News Express on 04/02/2018

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•CHAN Eagles danger man Gabriel Okechukwu
•CHAN Eagles danger man Gabriel Okechukwu

Memories of today’s final of Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) between host Morocco and Nigeria which kicks off 8pm Nigerian time will certainly linger for long because it involves two football powers in the continent.

Since it kicked off January 14, the football summit has been intriguing and full of upsets thick backgrounds that encourage fans to cheer and cheer in full excitement. It has in most extent proved book maker wrong and many commentators have also fallen flat in most cases as their predications were false.

The championship has lived up to its billing as fast emerging stuff to be reckoned with. It has also made strong announcement that African league is growing stronger by the day as the level of displays, tactical discipline and technical input tremendously improved compare to the previous editions. Without much ado, Morocco and Nigerian players won’t find it extremely difficult sizing each other for upper hand.

The finals will be wholly played by the bench as it will be the survival of the fittest from the deep thinking via water tight strategies from the bench.

Good enough, Nigeria won’t be lacking in such services bearing in mind that German-born Technical Adviser Gernot Rohr is already on the background and his interview on Friday gave me glimmer of hope that if the match referees should be above board and play to the rule, Nigeria would not be found wanting.

As the final looms the tug of war for supremacy ensues between two countries that are too desperate, hungry and thirsty to drink from the trophy for the first time in the history of tournament strictly designed for home based players in the continent.

Therefore it will be tough and rough tackles right from the first blast of the whistle to the last seconds.

A look at how each team has fared since the Championship began showed that Morocco won four (4} matches so far, drawn one against Sudan in the last group stage match after they had already qualified.

They scored 12 goals so far and conceded only two in the tournament.

The Atlas Lions as they are called also have the tournament’s leading goal scorer in their team Ayoub El Kaabi scored 8 goals.

Therefore Ayoub El Kaabi is no doubt a key man for the final for the Moroccans; the 24- year-old striker currently plays for Renaissance Sportive de Berkane, a team he joined in 2017 summer from racing de Casablanca.

True fact about Morocco is that it has won just one out of the four CAF tournaments which it has hosted?

The one successful host and victory in the tournament was in 1997 when it hosted the U-20 Africa Cup of Nations. Morocco defeated South Africa 1-0.

 It is worthy of note that aside from that it has been calamity galore for today’s hosts.

In 1988, Morocco hosted the AFCON and lost to neighbours and rivals Algeria in penalty shootout after the match ended 1-1.

In 2011, Morocco lost to Gabon 2-1 in the final of U-23 AFCON which also served as the Olympics qualifier tournament.

In 2013, Morocco lost to Cote d’Ivoire 2-1 in the semi finals of U-17 Africa Cup of Nations.

Nigeria has also won 4 matches and drew one match so far in the Champ. Our only draw was against Rwanda in the opening group match, 0-0.

The Eagles have scored seven goals and conceded two goals so far in the tournament.

Nigeria’s key man is Gabriel Okechukwu who has scored two goals so far in the tournament. The Akwa United striker has been a game changer when called upon, especially in the quarter finals when he came in as a substitute to score the winner against Angola. We will be depending on him to deliver again today.

Fact is that Nigeria has never won any CAF tournament hosted in morocco.

For instance in 1988 Nigeria lost to Cameroun in the final of AFCON, 1-0 through an Emmanuel Kunde penalty.

In 2011 Nigeria crashed out in the group stages of the U-23 Africa Cup of Nations hosted by Morocco, we eventually missed out on qualification for the Olympics as that tournament also served as the Olympic qualifiers.

In 2013, Nigeria lost to Cote d’Ivoire in the final of the U-17 Africa Cup of Nations, the match ended 1-1 with Cote d’Ivoire equalising in added time and defeating Nigeria on penalty shoot out

On head to head, it would be recalled that on November16, 1963 it was Nigeria 3 Morocco 0 – Lagos (Olympics qualifier) On March 8, 1964: Morocco 4 Nigeria 1 – Casablanca (Olympics qualifier). In March 26, 1964: Morocco 2 Nigeria 1 – Dakar Senegal (Olympics qualifier). September 21, 1969: Morocco 2 Nigeria 1 – Casablanca (World Cup qualifier).

However, November 8, 1969 it was Nigeria 2 Morocco 0 – Ibadan (World Cup qualifier). In February 28, 1972: Nigeria 3 Morocco 0 – Lagos (friendly) also in March 6, 1976: Morocco 3 Nigeria 1 – Dire Dawa (AFCON) March 11, 1976: Morocco 2 Nigeria 1 – Addis Ababa (AFCON). In April 3, 1976: Nigeria 3 Morocco 1 – Lagos (Olympics qualifier) April 8, 1976: Morocco 1 Nigeria 0 – Tangier (Olympic qualifier). March 19, 1980: NIGERIA 1 Morocco 0 – Lagos (AFCON), In August 14, 1983: Nigeria 0 Morocco 0 – Benin City (AFCON qualifier)

Again in August 28, 1983 it was Morocco 0 Nigeria 0 – Rabat (AFCON qualifier: 3-4 Penalties). February11, 1984: Nigeria 0 Morocco 0 – Lagos (Olympics qualifier).

Also in February26, 1984: Morocco 0 Nigeria 0 – Rabat (Olympics qualifier: 4-3 Penalties). December12, 1996: Morocco 2 Nigeria 0 – Casablanca (King Hassan tourney), February 3, 2000: Nigeria 2 Morocco 0 – Lagos (AFCON), January 27, 2004: Morocco 1 Nigeria 0 – Monaster (AFCON), January 25, 2014: Morocco 3 NIGERIA 4 (AET) – Cape Town.

CHAN 2018 TABLE

                         DRAWS    LOSSES          WINS

MOROCCO          8                 4                         7

NIGERIA             7                  4                         8

From the analysis above, it is clear that the ties between the two countries have been nothing but tight and this today’s won’t be an exception. Mother luck and tactical discipline from any of the teams will go a long way to shape the encounter. In as much as one won’t stick out his neck where the pendulum would swing to fact is that both countries are championship favourites before the kick –off. The goal margin won’t too wide after proceedings. Fans would full value for their money if the referee did not spoil their fun. Head or tail a winner must emerge, and Super Eagles seem to look set for it if only to use it to tell Ikechukwu Ezenwa: “Get back to action soon!”

 

Source News Express

Posted 04/02/2018 12:51:49 AM

 

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