Morocco vs. Nigeria Set for 2018 CHAN Final After Semi-Final Results

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistJanuary 31, 2018

Morocco's Walid el-Krati (C-R) celebrates after scoring during the semi-final football match in the African Nations Championship between Morocco and Libya at the Mohammed V Casablanca Stadium on January 31, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Fadel SENNA        (Photo credit should read FADEL SENNA/AFP/Getty Images)
FADEL SENNA/Getty Images

Morocco and Nigeria reached the final of CHAN 2018 after each winning in the last four on Wednesday. Hosts Morocco beat Libya 3-1 after extra time at the Complexe Mohammed V in Casablanca, while Nigeria beat Sudan 1-0 at the Grand Stade in Marrakech.

Those results mean the Lions of the Atlas and the Super Eagles will contest Sunday's final. Here's the updated schedule, per the tournament's official website:

      

Saturday, February 3: 3rd-Place Play-off

  • Libya vs. Sudan, 7 p.m. GMT/2 p.m. ET.

      

Sunday, February 4

  • Morocco vs. Nigeria, 7 p.m. GMT/2 p.m. ET.

      

Achraf Bencharki and Jawad El Yamiq both made the starting XI for the hosts, despite pending transfer issues. Bencharki is set to move to Saudi Arabia club Al Hilal Riyadh, while El Yamiq is on his way to Genoa, per BBC Africa Sport's Nick Cavell.

Morocco bossed the opening 45 minutes, going close three times but ultimately failing to breach the Libyan goal. The stalemate prompted a significant change after the break, with Bencharki substituted in favour of Zakaria Hadraf.

Despite the change, Morocco remained on the front foot, getting numbers forward and moving the ball at pace in the final third.

The deadlock was finally broken in the 73rd minute when Ayoub El Kaabi put the hosts in front. The centre-forward finished well to cap some smart approach play.

Cavell described the goal, as well as what it means for El Kaabi's prolific run in the tournament:

Midfielder El Mehdi Barrahma came off the bench as Morocco sought to roll down the shutters entering the final 10 minutes.

However, the ploy came undone thanks to a gaffe at the back from goalkeeper Anas Zniti. His error allowed Abdulrahman Khalifa to prod the ball into an empty net and force extra time.

El Kaabi was unerring in front of goal again soon after the additional 30 minutes began. He turned the ball in from close range after El Yamiq got his head to a corner.

A Walid El Karti penalty sent Morocco through to the final.

El Kaabi powered the hosts into the final.
El Kaabi powered the hosts into the final.FADEL SENNA/Getty Images

Nigeria will join them after Gabriel Okechukwu found the net. The Super Eagles held their lead thanks to a combination of resolute defending and lacklustre approach play from Sudan.

However, Nigeria's task became harder when Ifeanyi Ifeanyi was shown a second yellow card two minutes before the hour mark. ESPN's Colin Udoh felt the defensive midfielder deserved a harsher punishment:

It became 10 against 10 three minutes from time when Bachir Makki Bakri was dismissed. Nigeria clung on to book their place in the final.

Nigeria's defensive resolve against a Morocco side packed with pace and power up top will make for an interesting clash of styles.

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