Morocco will be hoping to retain their Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) title when they meet Mali in Sunday’s final at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in Cameroon.
The Atlas Lions will also be chasing the history of being the first country to win a second successive title in the tournament designed exclusively for home-based players.
The North Africans will play a formidable opponent whose mission is to prevent them winning the title back-to-back, a feat never achieved after five editions of the tournament.
Morocco will seek to emulate DR Congo who won the title in 2009 and 2016 after the Atlas Lions won the previous tournament on home soil in 2018.
“We hope to win the trophy for the second time in a row. We are going to play our game, with a concentrated and determined start,” said Moroccan coach Houcine Ammouta.
“It is true that we are favorites, because statistically we have the best numbers. For us, everything has been positive. Sunday, it will be necessary to create the same environment as in previous matches to repeat the feat and win the trophy.”
This time, it will be in Yaounde that the teammates of captain Ayoub El Kaabi will try to retain their title.
Far from their home crowd but with the firm conviction that they have the will to prove that they haven’t come this far for nothing, especially since they ousted the host country.
The Atlas Lions eliminated Cameron at the semi-finals stage and they did it with some class by hammering the Indomitable Lions by 4-0 on Wednesday but they are aware of the threat posed by the Malians.
“Mali is a solid team defensively. In the final, we have to be focused and decisive, especially in attack to push them to open the game which will allow us to play higher level of football. The game will be played on details,” said the former coach of Wydad Casablanca.
Fire attack vs iron defense
Despite these difficult group stage matches, the Eagles, like the Atlas Lions, have gone undefeated so far with the same record: four wins and one draw in five games.
If the overall picture is similar the broader outline favours the charges of Ammouta with much brighter statistics, especially in attack where Morocco has scored 13 goals while Mali have just hit the net three times only.
Defensively, the Moroccans have cracked three times as the Malian defence has only been unlocked just once during the entire competition.
“It is true that this Sunday we are going to play a second final of CHAN Total after that of 2016 but this time, we will enter with the firm idea of winning the trophy,” said the Mali coach Nouhoum Diane whose side reached the final of the 2016 edition.
“We have the possibility of doing something. We will play against Morocco, a great team, but psychologically we are ready. I think the matches are not the same. Morocco have some talented forwards and it’s up to us to stop them so they don’t score like they did in their previous matches.
“Physically, the players have recovered after two long matches and this is thanks to the great work done by the medical staff. As I often say, everything will be decided during the meeting.”
This Malian side includes players who were U17 World Champions in 2015 but also some who were crowned with the U20s during the U20 AFCON in 2019.