World: Africa Cup of Nations
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Zambia
Morocco
H. Ziyech (37)
By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Five Bundesliga professionals through to AFCON knockouts after Cote d'Ivoire's "Great Escape"

The Moroccan "Atlas Lions" have qualified for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations knockout round as group winners following a 1-0 win over 2012 African continental champions Zambia in their final group stage match. The North Africans have avoided the fate of regional rivals Algeria and Tunisia. 

Second place belongs to the Leopards of Congo DR. Three Bundesliga professionals (Noussair Mazraoui, Amine Adli, and Silas) all move deeper into the tournament thanks to the result.

Hosts Cote d'Ivoire may breathe a sigh of relief as the stars have aligned for them after all. Les Elephants are through to the Round-of-16 as the final third-place team permitted to pass. 

The "Great Escape" for Cote d'Ivoire means that the tournament continues for Bundesliga representatives Odilon Kossounou and Sebastien Haller. Neither has seen any action at the competition yet. Haller remains out injured while Kossounou lost his starting place. 

Kossounou may nevertheless get another chance as the Ivorians have fired their coach after their humiliating defeat against Equatorial Guinea.
The second set of final group stage kickoffs at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d'Ivoire on Wednesday wasn't necessarily much more entertaining than the first. After two goalless draws brought Group E to its conclusion, there was only one goal in two simultaneous kickoffs in Group F. Congo DR and Tanzania ended 0-0 while Morocco narrowly moved past Zambia with a slender 1-0 victory. The Atlas Lions of Morocco claim first place in the group. The Congolese Leopards are through as runners up.

In terms of the two Bundesliga players representing Morocco, Bayer 04 Leverkusen attacker Amine Adli worked his third consecutive shift off the bench. The former French youth international played the entire second half this time. Regrettably for the North Africans, captain and goal-scorer Hakim Ziyech had to be subbed off after 45 minutes. Adli made a strong case for the starting XI with a lively shift on Ziyech's right flank.

The 23-year-old amassed 25 touches and got two efforts in on target. FCB Bayern München fullback Noussair Mazraoui still wasn't fit enough to feature in Moroccan trainer Walid Regragu's matchday squad, but it has been confirmed that the 26-year-old is once again training with the team and may be back in time for the knockouts.

Congolese trainer Sébastien Desabre rewarded VfB Stuttgart attacker Silas' goal off the bench against Morocco in his squad's previous fixture with a start against Tanzania in the the concurrent kickoff. Silas nevertheless didn't factor into the match much, getting his boots the ball just 18 times and sending most all of his passes backward in a 53-minute-shift.

The big news at the AFCON at the conclusion of group stage play concerns the fact that hosts Cote d'Ivoire have had all the permutations break their way. Just two days after the most lopsided defeat ever to be suffered by a hosting AFCON nation, Les Elephants are through as the last of the third place teams thanks to these final results.

Leverkusen defender Odilon Kossounou hasn't featured for his country yet. That could easily be about to change as the country's football federation sacked head-coach Jean-Louis Gasset following Monday's humiliating loss. The 2015 continental champions much still face defending champs Senegal in the Round-of-16.

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