Cape Town — The football gods continue to smile on Moroccan football after the Confederation of African Football (CAF) who have given Liberia its blessing to play their 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers in Morocco.
This effectively means that Morocco will play only one of its four Group K fixtures outside their country. After Zimbabwe were withdrawn from Group K the remaining three teams were Morocco, South Africa and Liberia. CAF has found that Liberia do not have a stadium that conformed to international standards capable of hosting an international match.
Morocco have wasted no time and offered to host Liberia's matches. All four of Liberia's matches will be played in Morocco after CAF rubber-stamped their decision.
Morocco will experience a sense of a calming sense of déjà vu since they enjoyed the same advantage when playing their 2022 World Cup group-stage qualifiers over the past two years. Playing in Group I along with Sudan, Guinea-Bissau and Guinea, Morocco offered to host all the matches in this grouping. As a result, Morocco played all six group matches on home soil.
Recently there was a huge hullabaloo after Morocco were awarded host status for the CAF Champions League for two years in a row, even though one of its teams played in the final.
Two weeks ago, the South African Football Association (SAFA) appealed to CAF to rule that Morocco cannot host Liberia's matches. In its appeal, SAFA said: “SAFA hereby raise and officially object to that arrangement as it goes against the principles of Fair Play.
“The Moroccan Football Association will travel less and enjoy the benefits of home ground advantage more than anyone in the group.
“We understand the challenges of stadia on the continent, but we plead that it is not to disadvantage other countries or give an unfair advantage to others.”
On paper, Morocco with its world ranking of 24, should be way too strong for South Africa (69) and Liberia (149) which is one of the lowest world-ranked teams in Africa.
It does seem that Morocco are not good travellers, judging by their away results in recent months. Last week, Morocco was thumped 3-0 by the USA in Cincinnati, Ohio. In Morocco's previous away match, they were held to a 1-all draw by the 10-man Democratic Republic of the Congo outfit in a third-round World Cup play-off match in Kinshasa.
At the end of January, Morocco were defeated 2-1 by Egypt in an AFCON quarterfinal match in Yaoundé, Cameroon. This string of defeats away from home points to Morocco's vulnerability when they are on the road.
As things stand now, Morocco will open their 2023 qualifiers campaign with two matches on home soil this year. On Thursday, they host South Africa, and four days later, they run out against Liberia, who will be the home team in Morocco.
Thereafter, Morocco will be off to the World Cup in Qatar for their opening Group F match in late November against Croatia.
Next March, Morocco resume their AFCON qualifiers with their third match in South Africa. It will be the only time during the current AFCON qualifying that Morocco will not be on home soil. They close out their Group K assignments at home against Liberia next March.
After Thursday's visit to Morocco, Bafana Bafana will host Liberia in mid-September before returning to Morocco to play Liberia four days later.
Before flying out to Morocco over the weekend, Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos reflected on SAFA's failed appeal to CAF.
“So, we did make a complaint," said Broos. Did we get an answer? No! CAF is not interested. But this is not fair play, but it happened, what can we do?
"I have said it already a few times that here in Africa, some strange things are happening, and CAF and FIFA are talking about fair play.
"What about respect? You don’t hear anything else and then you see Morocco can play, from the four games they play three times at home. Here you have a team going to play their home game in a country that is in the same group."
The match on Thursday against Morocco will be at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat, Morocco (kick-off 9pm SA time).