Sunday, July 08, 2012

Morocco Wins Arab Nations Cup

In an unexpected victory, Morocco became the latest side to lift the Arab Nations Cup as they defeated Libya in a drama-filled final. The champions prevailed 3-1 in a penalty shoot-out after extra time finished with both sides level on a goal apiece.

It was a suitably exciting conclusion to a tournament that served up surprises from its start to finish. Morocco were perhaps the most surprising of victors. The champions triumphed over a raft of top sides despite entering the competition with a squad comprised entirely of domestic league players, while various pre-tournament favourites failed to make an impression.

As the dust settles, takes a look back over the rollercoaster ride that was the 2012 Arab Nations Cup.

Moroccan players celebrate their victory

Moroccan champions

Few were optimistic about Morocco’s chances after Belgian coach Eric Gerets announced a squad made up entirely of players from the country’s domestic league, but the eventual winners put the naysayers to shame when they finished top of Group B - their superior goal difference leaving Libya into second place.

It was during the final group stage game against Yemen that the side’s top scorer for the tournament, Yassine Salhi, first made his mark, scoring all the goals in Morocco’s 4-0 defeat of their Southern Arabian opponents and booking them a spot in the semi-finals against Iraq.

Having edged Iraq 2-1 in the last four, the Moroccans readied themselves for a tough North African derby against Libya in the final.

Morocco was leading in the score since the 5th minute of the first half of the game. Brahim EL Bahri opened the score for the Atlas Lions in a match marked by fierce competition from the Libyan team.

In the absence of a second goal that could have sealed the fate of the game, the Atlas Lions was forced to defend their tiny advantage.

While everybody was expecting the game to end with this score, Libya snatched the equalizer at the 88th minutes, forcing the Moroccans to play the extra time.

As many had predicted, the two teams proved unable to provide a decisive result before the whistle blew for the end of extra time and with the score deadlocked at 1-1, the former Group B rivals were set for a spot-kick decider.

It was to be Morocco’s night, though, with the Lions of the Atlas holding their nerve to record a 3-1 win on penalties and claim their first ever Arab Nations Cup.


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