Nigeria’s Super Eagles were handed a 4-0 defeat by Morocco in the final of the African Nations Championship at the Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca on Sunday.
It was the first time both nations will play in the showpiece game of the tournament designed for players based in their domestic league.
The game was played under soggy conditions amid a heavy downpour but Ayoub El Kaabi, Walid El Karti and Zakaria Hadraf got the goals for the Moroccans in a one-sided contest. Hadraf himself to a brace.
Nigeria head coach Salisu Yusuf opted to make changes to his playing personnel by leaving out Anthony Okpotu, the top scorer in his country’s elite division last season as Peter Eneji got the nod in an attempt to play from the wings.
The Super Eagles were always on the back foot as Morocco were technically superior with their movement on and off the ball.
Moroccan wingers Ismail El Haddad and Hadraf caused their opponents all sorts of trouble with their dribble runs and often drag the Nigerian defence wide to create openings in the middle for El Kaabi to operate.
On the cusp of half time, Hadraf gave Morocco the lead as the hosts went into the locker room with a deserved advantage.
Jamal Sellami’s men simply repeated the same routine in the second half – pressing play, denying their opponents space and time, and dragging the Nigerian defence wide in order to create vacuums in the heart of their defence.
It paid off three minutes after the restart when Eneji’s lunge at El Haddad in a bid to help his team’s defence was late and Gambian referee had the easiest of decision to make by sending him off for a second bookable offence.
Salisu’s men never recovered. The introduction of Okpotu, Austine Oladapo and Ibrahim Mustapha did nothing to change the tide of the game.
It was wave after wave of attack as Dele Ajiboye made two point blank saves after Eneji’s red card. He could not deny El Karti from heading home on 61 minutes after El Kaabi’s acrobatic attempt clipped the upright and fell for Hadraf whose shot was blocked by the Plateau United stopper.
Hadraf got his second goal on 64 minutes to make it three-nil to Morocco.
The Nigerian team were all at sea in the face of relentless attack from Morocco. The tournament’s top scorer El Kaabi finally got his goal after two of his previous attempts had hit the woodwork.
For Salisu and his team, it was game over in the cold rainy night skies of Casablanca though the Nigerian side have gone a step better than their previous best in the tournament when they finished third in South Africa in 2014.
© The Predictor