Morocco secured a place in the semi-finals of the TotalEnergies U17 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) by defeating host team Algeria 3-0 at the fully packed Stade Mohamed Hamlaoui in Constantine. Zakaria Ouazane was the star of the match, scoring a goal in each half, while Adam Chakir sealed the victory with a late third goal.
Despite the overwhelming support from the Constantine fans, who filled the stadium to capacity and created a deafening atmosphere, it was the tactically disciplined Moroccan team that emerged victorious.
The deadlock was broken in the 28th minute when Ouazane skillfully headed the ball into the bottom right corner following a cross from Ayman Ennair. The goal was set up beautifully by Ennair, who skillfully dispossessed Younes Badani on the right before delivering a curling cross for Ouazane to convert with a powerful header.
Prior to the goal, the North African derby had been closely contested. Algeria had the only shot on target up until that point, with Shain Chetioui’s curling free-kick being comfortably saved by the goalkeeper.
Morocco had their best opportunity before scoring in the 20th minute, as Chakir unleashed a long-range shot from nearly 35 yards out, narrowly missing the target by inches.
After taking the lead, Morocco gained confidence and controlled the game, maintaining possession and moving as a cohesive unit. However, they were almost caught on the counter-attack in the 35th minute. From a corner, the ball was cleared into the path of Moselm Anatouf, who headed it towards his strike partner Ziad Mohamed. Nevertheless, Morocco’s goalkeeper, Taha Benrhozil, quickly rushed off his line, standing tall at the edge of the box and making a crucial save in a one-on-one situation.
Just before halftime, Anatouf, who had been effectively contained throughout the game, had a chance to equalize with a turn and shot, but the Moroccan keeper made an impressive save.
In the second half, it took only 12 minutes for Morocco to double their lead. Abdel Hamid Maali provided an exquisite through ball to send Ouazane charging through the defense, and the talented striker calmly slotted the ball low into the net for his second goal of the game.
Trailing by two goals and facing an uphill battle, Algeria made changes in an attempt to find a breakthrough. Midfielder Younes Benali was substituted for forward Djibril Bahlouli to add more attacking impetus. However, they struggled to create significant scoring opportunities, as Morocco’s defensive player Abdelhamid AIt Boudlal kept a close eye on Anatouf whenever he ventured forward.
Morocco put the game beyond reach in the 86th minute, leaving the Algerian supporters in stunned silence. Chakir unleashed a brilliant half-volley from a cross on the right, securing the third goal and sealing the fate of the Algerian team.
With just four minutes of regulation time and an additional five remaining, Algeria saw no viable way to turn the game around, acknowledging their defeat at the hands of the impressive Moroccan side. This victory not only secures Morocco a place in the semi-finals but also qualifies them for the upcoming FIFA World Cup.