Friday Mar 26, 2021. 10:00
Morocco will look to seal qualification for the next Africa Cup of Nations when they face hosts Mauritania in a Group E match at Stade Cheikha Ould Boidiya in Nouakchott on the evening of Friday 26 March 2021, kick-off at 21:00 CAT.
The group standings heading into the fifth matchday sees Morocco well clear at the top with 10 points, while Mauritania (five points), Burundi (four) and Central African Republic (three) are all presumably scrapping to join the North Africans in qualifying for Cameroon 2022.
Morocco put themselves on the cusp of qualification with back-to-back wins (4-1 home and 2-0 away) over CAR in November 2020, featuring star turns from superstar players Achraf Hakimi, Youssef En-Nesyri and Hakim Ziyech.
Atlas Lions coach Vahid Halihodzic, however, has expressed his anger at being deprived of key figures after FIFA gave the green light for clubs to prevent players from travelling due to Covid-19 restrictions.
“I do not support this decision made by FIFA, it is always an honour for a player to come to play in Africa and it is not right to deprive them of this,” said the Bosnian coach. “It is unfair, unsportsmanlike and even discriminatory because they would like to join their national team.”
Mauritania, who made a strong start to the qualification campaign, suffered a setback in their matches against Burundi in November 2020, managing only one point after a 1-1 draw at home and 3-1 loss in Bujumbura.
Al Murabitun coach Corentin Martins also weighed in on the debate over players being withheld by European clubs, arguing that this block of qualifiers should have been postponed: “CAF could have moved the matches to the month of June,” he said, in order to avoid “a great imbalance between different nations”.
Nonetheless, Mauritania will know that a victory over Morocco would be a major boost in their hopes of returning to the AFCON, having made their tournament debut at the last edition in 2019.
In head-to-head stats, Mauritania and Morocco have met in five previous international matches dating back to 2008. The Atlas Lions have an unbeaten record, with four wins and one draw. That lone stalemate, a 0-0 in November 2019, was their first Group E match in these qualifiers.