Morocco have been eliminated from the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.
Despite going into their quarter-final clash with Egypt on Sunday night having not lost a single game at the competition, Vahid Halilhodžić’s men came up short when it mattered most in a 2-1 defeat.
Sofiane Boufal ensured that the Moroccans made the perfect start by scoring a penalty in the opening 10 minutes, but Mohamed Salah levelled the scores for the Egyptians in the second-half.
Egypt 2-1 Morocco
With no more goals in the regulation 90 minutes, Egypt moved into an extra half-hour for the second consecutive game and they clearly wanted to avoid back-to-back penalty shootouts.
As such, it was the Pharaohs who booked themselves a place in the semi-finals at the expense of Morocco with Trezeguet tapping home from Salah’s fine individual run on the right flank.
At the end of the day, Morocco can hold their hands up at having lost to one of the continent’s finest teams, but they’ll still be kicking themselves that they didn’t threaten more to score an equaliser.
Morocco chasing an equaliser
And we say that because Morocco spurned what looked like a fantastic opportunity to rescue a penalty shootout when they won a free-kick just outside the box in the dying seconds of the game.
With no less than 121 minutes on the clock, Imran Louza looked to be in the perfect position to whip in a threatening cross that could have caused the carnage necessary to make Egypt crumble.
In fact, the situation was so last-ditch and tempting that Morocco’s goalkeeper, Yassine Bounou, abandoned his own net in an attempt to break Egypt’s resolve by any means necessary.
Morocco’s woeful free-kick routine
However, in truly bewildering scenes, Morocco decided against simply crossing the ball into the danger area and instead tried an overthought free-kick routine that ended in disaster.
Morocco inexplicably opted to pass the ball to literally the only player in their entire team who wasn’t in the box and watched on as a terrible first touch allowed Egypt to easily snatch possession.
The only saving grace is that Egypt didn’t manage to profit from the empty goal by making it 3-1, but that doesn’t make the free-kick routine any less horrendous, so be sure to watch it down below:
What on earth were they thinking?
Bounou has scored before too…
Bounou’s furious reaction just about says it all because he might as well have not have bothered to run the length of the pitch if the set-piece that looked so threatening didn’t even enter the box.
And what makes the situation all the more bewildering is that Morocco’s shot-stopper actually has recent experience of coming up for late set-pieces and scoring a goal by any means necessary.
You only have to look back to March 2021 to see Bounou coming up for a Sevilla corner in injury time and lashing home a dramatic equaliser against Real Valladolid in La Liga.
Sure, it’s unlikely that lightning would strike twice, but that doesn’t make it any less infuriating that Morocco took the bewildering decision to use a doomed free-kick routine when it mattered most.