Morocco gifted opening Africa Cup of Nations win as Namibia concede late own goal

Morocco's Mbark Boussoufa celebrates after Namibia's Itamunua Keimuine scored an own goal and Morocco's first in their Africa Cup of Nations clash in Cairo. (Reuters)
Updated 23 June 2019

Morocco gifted opening Africa Cup of Nations win as Namibia concede late own goal

  • Relief was etched on the face of Morocco coach Herve Renard as the final whistle blew
  • It was cruel blow for the minnows from southern Africa

CAIRO: Namibian Itamunua Keimuine headed an 89th-minute Hakim Ziyech free-kick into his own net to gift Morocco a 1-0 victory Sunday in the opening Africa Cup of Nations Group D match.
It was cruel blow for the minnows from southern Africa, who lived up to their Brave Warriors nickname by taming the much-vaunted Atlas Lions.
Relief was etched on the face of Morocco coach Herve Renard as the final whistle blew after an unconvincing start by one of the competition favorites.
Renard is the only coach to win the Cup of Nations with two countries, guiding outsiders Zambia and previous underachievers the Ivory Coast to success between 2012 and 2015.
As the match kicked off in 36 degree celsius (97 fahrenheit) heat at the Al Salam Stadium, the bookmakers, the FIFA rankings and Cup of Nations history favored Morocco.
Morocco are 10/1 joint fifth favorites with bookmakers to win the title, 43 years after the only time they lifted a trophy that symbolizes African national team supremacy.
The Atlas Lions lie 66 places above the Brave Warriors in the FIFA world rankings and they triumphed 5-1 on the previous occasion the countries met, 11 years ago.
However, while Morocco enjoyed 60 percent possession during the opening 45 minutes in the sweltering Egyptian capital, they rarely troubled Namibia goalkeeper Loydt Kazapua.
It was a defender, right-back Nabil Dirar, who came closest to ending the stalemate with a fiercely struck 11th-minute shot from long range that flew just over the crossbar.
This was one of six goal attempts by the north Africans during the first half, but only two were on target, while both Namibian efforts went wide.
Namibia coach Ricardo Mannetti had warned his Group D opponents before the tournament that “even small dogs bite” and his side were a calm, well-organized outfit in the first half.
The second half was a replica of the first with Morocco pressing continuously and Namibia defending with discipline and intelligence.
Renard introduced Sofiane Boufal, who played for Celta Vigo in La Liga last season on loan from Southampton, and Karim el Ahmadi in an effort to break the deadlock.
The French coach played his final card on 78 minutes, introducing Khalid Boutaib, a familiar figure to Egyptians as he plays for famed Cairo club Zamalek.
Ivory Coast face South Africa Monday at the same stadium in a Group D showdown of former Cup of Nations winners.


Kobe Bryant: NBA All-Star crowd pays tribute to fallen basketball icon

Updated 17 February 2020

Kobe Bryant: NBA All-Star crowd pays tribute to fallen basketball icon

  • Bryant died along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven victims in a helicopter crash on January 26
  • NBA’s All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award has been permanently named for Lakers star

CHICAGO: Team LeBron beat Team Giannis by two points at the 69th NBA All-Star game on Sunday at a packed United Center that fell silent for eight seconds before tip-off as about 21,000 fans joined hands to pay their respects to global sports icon Kobe Bryant.
The silence was broken by a string of thunderous “Kobe, Kobe, Kobe,” chants that rocked the stadium as the crowd honored Bryant, who wore the No. 8 and No. 24 during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers that was highlighted by five National Basketball Association championships.
The stirring pre-game tribute began with Laker great Magic Johnson rousing the crowd and paying homage to Bryant, killed along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven victims in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on Jan. 26.
“We will never see another basketball player quite like Kobe,” Johnson said, highlighting his work with the Los Angeles community along with the love he had for his family. “This is a tough time for the whole NBA family.”
Johnson also paid tribute to former NBA Commissioner David Stern, who oversaw explosive growth in the popularity of the game during his 30-year tenure. Stern died on Jan. 1.
Before tip-off, the singer and actor Jennifer Hudson, who is a Chicago native, sang with a montage of photos of Bryant and his daughter in the background.
The game was a culmination of a weekend filled with tributes to the former Los Angeles Lakers star who was an 18-time All-Star and won the All-Star game’s MVP award four times.
On Friday, Bryant, who is fourth all-time in league scoring, was named a finalist to the Basketball Hall of Fame. On Saturday, the league’s commissioner, Adam Silver, announced that the league’s All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award has been permanently named for Bryant.
Bryant made his NBA All-Star Game debut in 1998 at age 19 – the youngest player to ever play in an All-Star Game. His 18 All-Star selections are the second-most in NBA history, behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, at 19.
Players in Sunday’s All-Star game wore No. 2 and No. 24 on their jerseys to honor Kobe and Gianna Bryant, while the game’s format paid homage to Bryant.
The team with the most points after three quarters needed to score 24 points to win, while the trailing team had to score 24 plus the number of points it was down.
Team Giannis held a nine-point lead over Team LeBron after three quarters, but the LeBron James-led side had the last laugh, outscoring Team Giannis 33-22 in the final period to clinch a 157-155 victory.
Team Giannis was headed by Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Team LeBron’s Kawhi Leonard was named All-Star MVP after scoring 30 points, including eight three-pointers.