IT MAY be Africa’s second most important competition for national teams, but the African Nations Championship appears to have been quite low-key. The final takes place this weekend (February 4), with hosts Morocco facing Nigeria in Casablanca.
Neither country has won it before, so there will be a new winner of a tournament that is only open to players plying their trade in domestic football.
Morocco won through to the final after beating Libya 3-1 in the semi-final after extra time. Prior to that they beat Namibia 2-0 and came through a group including Mauritania (4-0), Guinea (3-1) and Sudan (0-0).
Morocco’s line-up includes the competition’s leading scorer, Ayoub El Kaabi, who has netted eight goals so far. El Kaabi has caught the eye in each game and a number of Egyptian clubs are now keen on signing the 24 year-old.
Nigeria overcome Sudan by 1-0 in the semi-final and scraped past Angola in the last eight. They topped a group that included Rwanda (0-0), Libra (1-0) and Equatorial Guinea (3-1).
Nigeria will be without one of their star players, Sunday Faleye, who has dislocated an elbow. But Morocco may also be missing key men Achraf Bencharki and Jawad El Yamiq, who have been transferred abroad mid-competition, Bencharki to Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal and El Yamiq to Genoa in Italy. This contravenes the rules of the African Nations Championship but underlines the “shop window” nature of the event.