Morocco, Tunisia reach African Cup of Nations finals
Morocco defeated Malawi 1-0 on Saturday (June 16th), to win a berth in the African Cup of Nations finals. Bordeaux striker Marouan Chamakh scored the only goal after only 12 minutes of play. The last remaining match in this group of three teams – Zimbabwe vs. Malawi – will be of no consequence for the final standings. Morocco has thus won the first spot in Group 12, with 10 points from three wins and a draw. Malawi has three points and Zimbabwe one before the last match.
The other North African football powerhouse, Tunisia, is also certain to reach the finals after beating Mauritius 2-0 at home on Saturday. French team Lens striker Issam Jomaa scored the first goal with one minute to go before the end of the first half. Mehdi Nafti, who plays as a midfielder for Birmingham City, put in the second goal in the 60th minute. In the second match in group 4, the Seychelles lost to Sudan 2-0 at home. In the last round, Sudan will play Tunisia and Mauritius will face the Seychelles. Tunisia and Sudan will qualify regardless of the outcome, since one will earn the top spot in the group, while the other will be one of the three best-performing second-placed teams in the qualifications that will join the 12 group leaders and host nation Ghana in the finals. Tunisia is currently at the top of the group with 13 points (four wins, one draw) followed by Sudan with 12 points (four wins and a loss), the Seychelles with three points, and Mauritius with one.
Also on Saturday, Guinea created shockwaves in African football with an impressive 2-0 away win over Algeria. Fode Mansare and Pascal Feindouno scored for Guinea in both cases following counter-attacks. The Algerians missed a host of opportunities and yielded the first spot in Group 8 to Guinea. Both teams have eight points but Guinea has better head-to-head record. Gambia and Cape Verde are third and fourth with five points each. In the last round of qualifiers, Gambia will meet Algeria and Guinea will play Cape Verde. First place is still technically up for grabs by any of the four teams. Still, with its victory on Saturday and the advantage of playing on its home turf in the last round Guinea is the clear favourite for the finals, while the runner-up will have only a small chance of making it among the three best-performing second-placed teams. The last round of qualifiers will take place on September 7th.
In other news, midfielder Shakib Benzucan, a Moroccan under-21 international formerly with Kawkab Athletique Club, signed a four-year contract with Bulgarian champions Levski on Saturday. He was officially introduced to the media on Sunday and made his first appearance as a member of the club during the team's training session in the afternoon.
Former Morocco international Abdelmajid Oulmers has extended his contract with Belgian club Charleroi until 2010. His initial contract was due to expire in 2008. He also had an offer from Standard de Liege but opted to remain with his current club. Oulmers has played 30 matches in the Belgian championship and has scored two goals.
Outside the world of soccer, Morocco is due to host the World Youth Volleyball Championship from July 7th-15th. The international Volleyball Federation announced the results of the team drawing on Tuesday. Morocco will play in Group A together with Iran, Cuba, Italy, Japan, and Bulgaria. Brazil, Argentina, Egypt, the United States, Slovenia, and champions Russia are in Group B. The Group A matches will take place in Casablanca. Group B will play in Rabat.
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