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AFCON 2023 Day 10 Preview: Intriguing match between DR Congo and Morocco; neighbors South Africa and Namibia clash

The second round of group stage matches conclude on Sunday at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations with a fascinating clash between Morocco and DR Congo who are vying for Group F supremacy. Zambia look to earn three points in the other Group F match of the day against a Tanzania side who wish to overcome distractions off the pitch and prove they can compete on Africa’s biggest stage. An all-COSAFA duel between Namibia and South Africa concludes the day’s action and you can read all about all of Sunday’s matches below:

Group F: Morocco v DR Congo 14:00 GMT

Creative midfielder Azzedine Ounahi showed his quality against Tanzania, reminding observers of his excellent form for Morocco at the 2022 FIFA World Cup

An enticing matchup will begin the slate of matches on Sunday with a popular pick to win the competition, Morocco, facing off with a DR Congo team that is considered a “dark horse” to make a deep run. Both teams impressed in their opening matches with Morocco dispatching a weak Tanzania selection while the Leopards dominated against Zambia but were held to a draw.

The atmosphere around the Moroccan selection is a business-like mentality. Coach Walid Regragui and his players are focused on obtaining a result that will clinch advancement to the knockout stages while showing the necessary respect to a talented Congolese team. Regragui mentioned the fact that the match will be the opening clash of the day, meaning that the intense heat and humidity will be a factor.

For the opening match, Regragui was forced to use natural right back Mohamed Chibi on the left flank but it appears that Wydad AC left back Yahia Attiyat-Allah is ready to return to the pitch while Noussair Mazraoui continues to make progress with his injury. Attiyat-Allah is set to return to a strong defensive line that includes Achraf Hakimi at right back and the central defensive partnership of Nayef Aguerd and captain Romain Saïss in front of superstar goalkeeper Yassine Bounou. Manchester United defensive midfielder Sofyan Amrabat adds to the impenetrability of the Atlas Lions defense.

Azzedine Ounahi was excellent in the central midfield along with Selim Amallah, both players who do well to connect the Moroccan defense to attack. Regragui may rotate in a player like Amine Harit but no risks will be taken against the Congolese who figure to be the most difficult opponent in Group F. Youssef En-Nesyri will lead the attacking line with set piece specialist Hakim Ziyech on the right wing and perhaps Sofiane Boufal on the left after his recovery from the flu. However the starter on the left from the last match, Abde Ezzalzouli, is more than capable to play for Boufal again.

DR Congo striker Cédric Bakambu was wasteful against Zambia and needs to improve his efficiency with excellent options in reserve

For DR Congo the focus is on better finishing and avoiding mistakes after dominating their opening match against Zambia only to end with a 1-1 draw. French tactician Sébastien Desabre had a confident disposition in the pre-match press conference, stating he will put together a plan to complicate things for Morocco. With experience coaching in the North African country, Desabre showed plenty of respect for the ability and humility of the Moroccan team and its coach Walid Regragui.

Zambia only managed one shot on target which resulted in a goal due to a costly error from DRC goalkeeper Lionel Mpasi. Other than the mistake from the former Paris Saint-Germain youth product, the defense was sharp with Gédéon Kalulu at right back, Arthur Masuaku on the left and a strong central partnership featuring captain Chancel Mbemba and Simba SC defender Henoc Inonga Baka.

There should be few if any changes from Desabre. Defensive midfielder Charles Pickel continues to develop a strong partnership with the more creative Samuel Moutoussamy and former French youth international Gaël Kakuta looked impressive in a free role as a playmaker. Théo Bongonda and particularly Yoane Wissa were impressive with Brentford winger Wissa finding the net. Veteran striker Cédric Bakambu failed to capitalize on his opportunities but considering his status as a leader in the team, it is unlikely that Desabre will replace him despite having a couple of very impressive options in reserve.

Group F: Zambia v Tanzania 17:00 GMT

Zambia central defender Frankie Musonda was in inspired form against DR Congo and the highlight of an excellent defensive performance in Chipolopolo’s opening match

The second round of matches in Group F closes out with a duel between Southern Africa and East Africa as Zambia take on the Taifa Stars of Tanzania. Zambia faced a difficult opponent in DR Congo but scrapped out a 1-1 draw courtesy of a tenacious defensive performance where Chipolopolo failed to break despite an onslaught of Congolese attacks. The odds continue to be stacked against Tanzania after a week of controversy involving manager Adel Amrouche as well as a 3-0 thrashing at the hands of group favorites Morocco.

For Zambia the match against DR Congo was a reality check for Chipolopolo who had expectations of surprising in the competition. Coach Avram Grant was satisfied with the defensive performance of his team and their resilience but there was also plenty of criticism from Zambian observers who expected more from a talented attack. Grant is eager to move on stating that a victory is crucial for the purpose of advancing for Zambia.

Zambia star striker Patson Daka was also critical of the attack and Grant pointed out that Tanzania have a strong defense which will pose another challenge. Daka was starved for service due to a disappointing outing from wingers Fashion Sakala and captain Lubambo Musonda who lost the ball nearly every time they attempted to dribble at the Congolese defense. Lameck Banda showed some good signs as a substitute and is a candidate to be in the eleven if Grant wants to change things up. Kings Kangwa and Emmanuel Banda are central midfielders who will have more freedom to move forward and aid the forward line.

Kelvin Kapumbu was very impressive as the defensive midfielder for Zambia, covering the fullbacks and disrupting attacks. There should be a role for the domestically based player in front of a defensive line that is led by the central defender partnership of Stoppila Sunzu and Frankie Musonda who performed admirably against the Leopards. Roderick Kabwe should resume his left back duties and Grant could opt for a right back who is more comfortable attacking than Tandi Mwape who stayed at home against DR Congo.

Tanzania needs to show some initiative on attack against Zambia and Charles M’Mombwa is capable of providing service for the Taifa Stars forwards

Little was expected of Tanzania on the pitch at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations but controversy enveloped the team ahead of and after their 3-0 defeat to Morocco. Algerian coach Adel Amrouche caused a furor before the match by accusing the Royal Moroccan Football Federation of having too much influence in African football and he was suspended by the Tanzania Football Federation ahead of Sunday’s match. Hamed Suleiman Ali is the interim coach and made it clear that Amrouche is not fired but will not be on the sidelines for the Zambia clash.

However the most difficult opponent is out of the way and the Tanzanian squad is maintaining a sense of optimism. The defense did put up substantial resistance with Ibrahim Hamad, Bakari Mwamnyeto and Novatus Miroshi as central defenders behind defensive midfielders Mudathir Yahya and Himid Mao Mkami. Miroshi received a red card and it is likely that a four-man backline will be in place with Young Africans teammates Mwamnyeto and Hamad as the central defenders. Mohamed Hussein of Simba SC should be at left back and English-based right back Haji Mnoga had some good moments on the right flank.

Tanzanian supporters will ask for more creativity in the midfield meaning one of or both Morice Abraham and Feisal Salum could be brought in. Charles M’Mombwa had little opportunity on the ball against Morocco and must make use of his opportunities to create against Zambia whether he is used in the center or as a wide attacker. Himid Mao Mkami is of little use moving forward but should retain his place as the defensive midfielder. Mbwana Samatta is the captain and talisman up front and Simon Msuva could also have a role despite currently being unattached to a club.

Group E: South Africa v Namibia 20:00 GMT

South Africa forward Percy Tau must bounce back after his penalty kick miss killed Bafana Bafana’s momentum in their opening match defeat against Mali

Finally, Group E takes center stage for the final match of the day when South Africa’s Bafana Bafana attempt to bounce back from a disappointing defeat to Mali against COSAFA rivals Namibia. The Brave Warriors of Namibia earned their first ever victory at the AFCON with a sensational upset of Tunisia and are in full confidence ahead of the match against their neighbors.

There were plenty of positive signs for South African supporters whose team seized the initiative against Mali in what felt like a match on the road considering the support Mali enjoyed. Hugo Broos’ team was threatening in attack but after a Percy Tau missed penalty the match swung dramatically in favor of Mali and defensive shortcomings led to defeat. Knowing that many Namibian players ply their trade in South African domestic football, Broos acknowledged the intensity that awaits in Sunday’s match but maintained the focus is for a good performance in both halves from his team.

Tau is the greatest goal threat in a South African attack that lacks a reliable striker. Physically imposing marksman Evidence Makgopa showed signs of his potential in the role and should lead the attacking line again with Themba Zwane in a withdrawn playmaking role. Rising talent Thapelo Maseko had some good moments on the left wing and should retain his place.

In midfield, Teboho Mokoena provides the link to the attack ahead of Sphephelo Sithole, a defensive ball winner who will keep it simple with his passing. Khuliso Mudau on the right side and Aubrey Modiba on the left flank offer support to the attack from the fullback position but the distribution must be better from them as well as central defenders Siyanda Xulu and Mothobi Mvala who gave the ball away in bad spots too often. Ronwen Williams is an excellent goalkeeper who performed admirably against Mali but needs some help from his defenders.

Namibia goalkeeper Lloyd Kazapua was sensational in the victory over Tunisia and has more to prove considering he is a backup for Chippa United in the top division of South African football

For Namibia and head coach Collin Benjamin, the victory against Tunisia was the result of years of hard work to qualify the country for their first AFCON since 2008. Benjamin emphasized his team’s excellent work ethic, focus and ability to avoid the noise coming from outside. Now a difficult task awaits against the big brother of the COSAFA region, South Africa, who are always a prime target for the other nations in the region.

Goalkeeper Lloyd Kazapua came up with several excellent saves behind a defense that performed well against Tunisia. Lubeni Haukongo and Kennedy Amutenya proved they are players to watch in the heart of the defensive line and should be in line for more attention from scouts. Left back Riaan Hanamub and Ryan Nyambe on the right side have quality that is well known as well as the toughness and determination required to succeed at this level.

Aprocious Petrus, naturally a left back, continues to succeed at a defensive midfield position behind veteran Petrus Shitembi and attacker Prins Tijueza. Shitembi will look to spark attacks with long balls over the top to find Tijueza, star winger Deon Hotto, right winger Absalom Limbondi and another star in Mamelodi Sundowns poacher Peter Shalulile. Shalulile failed to take his chances against Tunisia but will be hungry to find the net against South Africa, a team whose players know him well from his goal scoring exploits at Sundowns.

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