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Morocco triumphs over Mali to reach final, seal Olympics berth



Morocco’s U23 team has become the second African nation to qualify for the Paris Olympics 2024 after a thrilling encounter against Mali in the CAF U23 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2023.

In a match filled with excitement and intensity at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat, Morocco emerged victorious in a penalty shootout, prevailing 4-3 after the teams had fought to a 2-2 draw in regular time.

Zakaria El Quahdi sent the Moroccan fans into a frenzy when he scored the opening goal after just 14 minutes, igniting the home crowd’s enthusiasm.

Despite the host’s initial dominance, Mali, led by the inspirational Mamady Diambou, displayed resilience and grew in confidence throughout the match.

Mali intensified their attacks in the second half, eventually equalizing through Diambou in the 66th minute. With no resolution at the end of regulation time, the referee extended the game by an additional 30 minutes.


In the 108th minute, Morocco regained the lead through Amine El Quazzani’s strike. However, Mali refused to concede defeat and equalized once again in the 116th minute when Issoufi Maiga headed in from close range, leveling the score at 2-2.

The match was ultimately decided by a penalty shootout. Morocco maintained their composure and successfully converted all four of their penalties, while Mali faltered with misses from captain Boubacar Traore and Ahmed Diomande.

The victory sparked jubilant celebrations among the Moroccan team and their passionate supporters, marking a significant milestone in their Olympic journey.

In the final, scheduled to take place on Saturday in Rabat, Morocco will face defending champions Egypt, while Guinea and Mali will contend for the third Paris Olympic slot in the play-off on Friday in Tangier.

Morocco’s qualification for the Paris Olympics stands as a testament to their tenacity and determination, and they now aim to seize the opportunity to shine on the global stage of Olympic competition.


Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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