By Sedara Philip
Morocco made history on Saturday night as they clinched their first TotalEnergies U-23 Africa Cup of Nations title with a thrilling 2-1 win against ten-man Egypt at the Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat, requiring extra time to settle the match.
Egypt took an early lead when Mahmoud Saber unleashed a brilliant curler into the top corner, giving his team an advantage after just nine minutes of play.
However, Saber’s night quickly turned sour as he received a red card eight minutes later for a reckless challenge on Abdessamad Ezzalzouli.
Despite being reduced to ten men, Egypt managed to hold their ground for the remaining minutes of regular time. However, their defence faltered in the 37th minute, allowing Yanis Begraoui to score the equalizer for the host nation.
The first and second halves concluded without any additional goals, leading the match into extra time. It was during the first half of extra time that Morocco seized the lead, putting Egypt behind for the first time in the competition.
Substitute Oussamna Targhalline capitalized on a free kick from Ezzalzouli, delivering a powerful strike that eluded the Egyptian goalkeeper, making it 2-1 in favor of Morocco.
Efforts from Egypt to secure a late equalizer proved fruitless, as Morocco held on to claim victory and secure their first TotalEnergies U-23 AFCON trophy.
Both Morocco and Egypt have earned their spots in next year’s Olympic Games, set to take place in Paris, alongside Mali, who secured their qualification after defeating Guinea in the third-place playoff game on Saturday.
Guinea can stil secure a place as the fourth African side at the Olympic Games in Paris but they have to win a playoff against a yet-to-be-decided Asian opponent.