Morocco held by DR Congo, forced to wait to seal Afcon last-16 spot

DR Congo’s forward #19 Fiston Mayele (L) fights for the ball with Morocco’s defender #2 Achraf Hakimi during the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2024 group F football match between Morocco and DR Congo at Stade Laurent Pokou in San Pedro on January 21, 2024. AFP

Morocco will have to wait to clinch a place in the last 16 of the Africa Cup of Nations after being held to a 1-1 draw by the Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday, with Silas Katompa Mvumpa earning the Leopards a deserved draw.

Achraf Hakimi had given heavily-fancied Morocco an early lead in San-Pedro, in the south-western corner of Ivory Coast, and Cedric Bakambu missed a penalty for the Congolese before the interval.

But substitute Silas, of German Bundesliga side VfB Stuttgart, swept home the equaliser on 76 minutes to ensure a share of the spoils.

Having beaten Tanzania 3-0 in their opening game, Morocco are on top of Group F with four points, with DR Congo on two points after starting by drawing 1-1 with Zambia.

Tanzania and Zambia were due to meet each other in Sunday’s other game, before 2022 World Cup semi-finalists Morocco take on the Zambians in their last group outing on Wednesday with the aim of wrapping up a spot in the knockout stage.

The Atlas Lions beat DR Congo 5-2 on aggregate in a play-off to qualify for the last World Cup, and they looked to be on course for a comfortable win here when they went in front inside six minutes.

Hakimi was left unmarked at a corner from the Moroccan left, and the Paris Saint-Germain full-back duly dispatched a sidefoot volley low into the net.

The Leopards were awarded a penalty late in the first half for a Selim Amallah handball following a VAR check, but Galatasaray forward Bakambu’s kick hit the post and went wide.

Nevertheless, they remained a threat on the break in the second half and two substitutes combined as they drew level inside the final quarter of an hour.

Meschack Elia cut the ball back from the right side of the box for fellow substitute Silas to score, as DR Congo came from behind to draw for the second game in a row.

Morocco, chasing just a second AFCON title and a first since 1976, still know they will top the group by beating 2012 champions Zambia next.

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