Defending champions Morocco face Algeria without injured stars

Ayoub El-Kaabi
Updated 20 September 2019

Defending champions Morocco face Algeria without injured stars

  • Morocco will miss injured stars Ayoub El-Kaabi and Mahmoud Benhalib

JOHANNESBURG: Morocco will miss injured stars Ayoub El-Kaabi and Mahmoud Benhalib when they begin their defense of the African Nations Championship title away to Algeria on Saturday.

El-Kaabi starred at the 2018 tournament, scoring nine goals in six matches for the host nation as they won the competition restricted to home-based players for the first time.

The same year, Benhalib was the leading scorer with 12 goals in the CAF Confederation Cup, the African equivalent of the UEFA Europa League.

The predatory instincts of El-Kaabi won him a contract with Chinese Super League outfit Hebei China Fortune, who loaned him to Wydad Casablanca this year.

Benhalib plays for Raja Casablanca, three-time African champions and arch rivals of Wydad, with whom they share the biggest stadium by capacity in the north African country.

Wydad and Raja stars dominate the squad chosen by coach Houcine Ammouta to face Algeria in Blida, 55 km southwest of Algiers. In the absence of El-Kaabi and Benhalib, one of the biggest threats to Algeria could come from an unusual source.

Mohamed Nahiri is a Wydad fullback, but he scored five goals in the CAF Champions League last season and another last weekend in their first outing of the latest edition.

Algeria are not able to call on any of the players who won the Africa Cup of Nations in July, but they have selected Zakaria Benchaa and Amir Sayoud, who have shown impressive early season form in the two African club competitions.

Benchaa bagged a brace last Sunday for USM Alger, the second time he has achieved the feat in three Champions League outings.

Sayoud has netted once in each of three matches played by CR Belouizdad in the Confederation Cup. A worrying statistic for Morocco is that the last three Nations Championship winners to defend the title — Tunisia, Libya and the DR of Congo — all failed to qualify.

Tunisia host Libya on Saturday in a geographically-based qualifying competition so only two teams from the north of the continent can make it to the 2020 tournament in Cameroon.

Nigeria, who reached the 2018 final only to have Peter Moses sent off and suffer a 4-0 hiding from Morocco in Casablanca, are away to Togo, who edged past Benin in the previous round.

Ghana have home advantage first as they seek to avenge a shock 4-3 aggregate defeat by Burkina Faso in 2018 qualifying.

DR Congo, the only country to win the Nations Championship twice, visit the Central African Republic as they chase a fifth appearance at the tournament, which now features 16 teams.

After surprising Kenya, Tanzania host Sudan hoping history repeats itself as they won home and away when the countries last clashed.

In the southern region, eSwatini (formerly Swaziland), Madagascar and Lesotho are hoping to secure finals places for the first time.

eSwatini and Madagascar play at home against Zambia and Namibia respectively while Lesotho visit Zimbabwe, whose Prince Dube scored a hat-trick in their last outing, against Mauritius.

FIFA may extend punishments globally after racism at Bulgaria-England match

Updated 13 min 40 sec ago

FIFA may extend punishments globally after racism at Bulgaria-England match

  • Racist incidents include monkey chants directed at black players
  • UEFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against Bulgaria for racist behavior

ZURICH: Football body FIFA on Tuesday said it may extend punishments globally after racist incidents, including monkey chants directed at black players, marred a match between Bulgaria and England.
“FIFA may extend worldwide any sanctions that a Confederation or Member Association imposes for racist incidents, such as those which occurred in Sofia during the UEFA EURO 2020 qualifier match between Bulgaria and England,” the Zurich-based organization said.
“FIFA therefore expects to be informed as soon as practicable regarding the relevant decisions of the UEFA disciplinary bodies in relation to this particular case,” it added. “This would allow any sanctions imposed to be extended worldwide.”
European football’s ruling body UEFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against Bulgaria for racist behavior, including Nazi salutes and chants, and against England for not providing enough traveling stewards.
The game, won 6-0 by England on Monday, was twice halted in the first half and a public announcement was made under UEFA’s three-step protocol for dealing with racist incidents during matches.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino said more needed to be done to tackle the “obnoxious disease” of racism which seemed to be getting worse.
“I call on all football governing bodies to join us and think together of new, stronger and more effective ways to eradicate racism in football,” he said.
Competition organizers should enact regulations which envisage life bans from stadiums for those who are found guilty of racist behavior at a football match, Infantino said.