• CHAN: El Kaabi hat-trick takes Morocco to last 8

    AFP | Ayoub el Kaabi was the hat-trick star as hosts Morocco reached the African Nations Championship quarter-finals by defeating Guinea 3-1 in Casablanca on Wednesday.

    The 24-year-old is the leading scorer with five goals in the biennial tournament for home-based footballers after bagging a brace in a 4-0 rout of Mauritania last weekend.

    His Group A treble against the Guineans was only the third in 121 Championship matches, matching the feats of Zambian Given Singuluma and Nigeria Chisom Chikatara.

    El Kaabi needs one more goal to become the highest scorer in one edition of the competition — a record he currently shares with 2009 Nations Championship sharpshooter Singuluma.

    He has emerged as a surprise star with much of the pre-tournament attention on another Moroccan striker, Achraf Bencharki from 2017 African club champions Wydad Casablanca.

    But coach Jamal Sellami has opted to start with El Kaabi, introducing Bencharki as an impact player during the second half against Mauritania and Guinea.

    Adding to the joy of El Kaabi was the presence in a packed 65,000-seat Stade Mohamed V of Morocco World Cup coach Herve Renard.

    The Frenchman was studying the best Moroccan local talent as he prepares the “Atlas Lions” to face Iran, Portugal and Spain in Russia during June.

    El Kaabi scored on 27 minutes and after Saidouba Bissiri Camara levelled within a minute, struck twice in four minutes during the second half for an ultimately comfortable win.

    Sudan joined Morocco in the knockout stage after defeating Mauritania 1-0 in the second match of a double-header with 18-year-old Walaa Eldin Musa scoring on 30 minutes.

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