Walid Regragui counts Bafana Bafana amongst contenders for 2023 AFCON title

Walid Regragui counts Bafana Bafana amongst contenders for 2023 AFCON title

Morocco head coach Walid Regragui says teams like Bafana Bafana cannot be ruled out from winning the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Ivory Coast.

The Atlas Lions remains one of the favourites to lift this title.

Regragui was speaking to a packed media audience at the Felix Houphounet Boigny stadium in Abidjan, Ivory Coast on the eve of their international friendly match against the Elephants at 17:00 (19:00 SA time).

Morocco, the only African team to have reached the FIFA Men’s World Cup semifinals with Regragui at the helm, have been handed a tricky draw for the 34th edition of the AFCON, which also has former champions Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Tanzania.

Almost all the Group F matches will be played in San Pedro a city on the South Western side of Ivory Coast, at the Laurent Pokou stadium.

The recent AFCON qualifiers have been characterized by the tight margins between the so-called big guns and smaller footballing nations.

Regragui knows too well having also lost recently to Bafana Bafana in an AFCON qualifier at FNB stadium in June by two goals to one in Hugo Broos’ side's final qualifying game.

But the 1996 African champions have been producing poor results in the recent matches, including Friday’s poor goalless draw performance against the 144th ranked neighbours Eswatini, a team ranked 79 spots below them. 

“In the AFCON today, every team can win this tournament. And this also includes South Africa, when we were recently in Johannesburg, we lost to Bafana Bafana.

“Now, there are no easy games in Africa, all the teams are stronger, for us as Morocco, we will try to do our best just like in the World Cup to win this competition.

“But I still maintain that a number of teams are still dark horses to win this AFCON tournament,” said Regragui about the draw.

Despite their good showing at the last World Cup in Qatar, Regragui is also aware of the expectations that Africa’s number-one-ranked country faces.

It has been 47 years since they last won the tournament in 1976, as they topped the group after drawing one-all with Guinea Conakry in the final game.

The former Wydad Casablanca head coach, a modern football tactician with world class players around him like Achraf Hakimi, Hakim Ziyech, Noussair Mazroui, Yasine Bonou and many more, highlights the area of preparation for this tournament.

“The experience of our coaching staff will be crucial in preparing our team for each match,” he stated.

“We need to study our opponents carefully and understand their strengths and weaknesses. This is a competition where attention to detail could be the deciding factor between victory and defeat,” concluded Regragui.