World: Africa Cup of Nations
0 - 2
(0 - 0)
South Africa
X A. Hakimi (85), S. Amrabat (90)
E. Makgopa (57), T. Mokoena (90)
By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Moroccan AFCON elimination sends Adli and Mazraoui back to Germany

League-leaders Bayer 04 Leverkusen and German giants FC Bayern München shall each have actors returning in time for this weekend's upcoming league fixtures following Morocco's elimination from the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations on Tuesday. 

The "Atlas Lions" became the last North African side to fall in a tournament that has proven most unkind to neighboring powerhouses Algeria, Egypt, and Tunisia. South Africa's "Bafana, Bafana" became the latest nation to unseat a historic giant. 
Bayer 04 Leverkusen received two of their AFCON representatives back on Tuesday evening. Edmond Tapsoba's Burkina Faso were eliminated from the tournament by Mali in the early kickoff on this final day of Round-of-16 action in the early kickoff. Later on, Amine Adli's "Atlas Lions" were unexpectedly defeated by underdogs South Africa in the late kickoff. Adli heads back to Germany alongside Bundesliga colleague Noussair Mazraoui of FC Bayern München.

Adli worked off the bench in all three of Morocco's group stage fixtures. The former French youth international unsurprisingly received a start from Moroccan trainer Walid Regragui this time following his solid work throughout the tournament's initial phase. In a much more surprising development, Bayern right back Mazraoui was immediately handed a start despite the fact that injury issues left him out of all three of Regragui's match-day squads.

Neither Bundesliga profi performed especially poorly in the defeat. Adli, starting on the right wing, dropped deep to win several midfield balls that led to scoring chances. Mazraoui - who had to start on his unnatural left to accommodate former Dortmund star Achraf Hakimi on the right-hand-side of the back-four - looked lively enough and kept things ticking on his flank.

Unable to turn their superior play into an opening goal, the Moroccans were nevertheless made to pay when the underdogs scored the 1-0 totally out-of-the-blue. Because Hakimi only hit the crossbar when attempting to score the equalizer from the penalty spot in the 85th, Hugo Broos' side were able to score again off a free-kick at 90+5.

Adli rattled off two shots and assisted on another during his precisely hour-long shift. He went on six long carries and hit his colleagues with 14 completed passes. Mazraoui was equally as effective (90 percent) on passing and sent in five crosses among his 40 touches. The FCB outside defender's night also ended early (76 minutes), most likely due to fitness concerns.

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