Dramatic penalties send Morocco to Africa’s U-17 final

Morocco and Mali faced each other in their pursuit of a place in the final of the 2023 Africa U-17 Cup of Nations. The match had initially ended in a goalless draw after ninety minutes of intense play. Despite spending most of the game defending, Morocco’s composure shone through in the penalty shootout, largely thanks to the goalkeeper Benrhozil’s heroic performance.

As a result, they secured their place in the final, scheduled for Friday, where they will meet Senegal. Meanwhile, Mali will clash with Burkina Faso in the third-place match on Thursday. Morocco previously won a decisive victory against the host country Algeria.

The ninety minutes leading up to the penalty shootout lacked excitement, with Mali continuously pressing the Moroccan team in their own half. Set pieces offered the closest opportunities for both teams to score, with Mali’s midfielder Ange Martial Tia striking the crossbar from a free kick in the 31st minute, shortly after Morocco came close from a corner kick.

The second half continued in a similar pattern, as Ibrahim Diarra, Mali’s captain, hit a direct free kick against the post in the 49th minute, while Morocco’s midfielder Adam Chakir saw his volley from Mohamed Radouane’s free kick service hit the crossbar around the hour mark.

Ultimately, it was the penalty shootout that determined the winner. Mali had an excellent start, successfully converting their first three spot kicks, while Morocco failed to score on their second and third attempts. However, Benrhozil’s saves denied Ibrahim Kanate and Diarra, while Morocco capitalized on their chances, leading to the need for extra penalties.

Both teams managed to score on their sixth and seventh attempts, but it was Mali who stumbled first when Gaoussou Koné’s shot was denied by Benrhozil. However, it was Fouad Zahouani who ultimately turned the tide, converting the decisive penalty and securing a thrilling 6-5 victory in the shootout.

Morocco is having a dream year in football following a historical semi finals at the world cup in Qatar this past December 2022.