Shock 2022 World Cup semi-finalists Morocco cruised to a 3-0 win over 10-man Tanzania in San Pedro on Wednesday as they opened their Africa Cup of Nations Group F campaign.
Captain Romain Saiss scored in the first half and, after Tanzania had Novatus Miroshi sent off, Azzedine Ounahi and Youssef En-Nesyri netted for the Atlas Lions.
Although an African powerhouse for decades, Morocco are seeking only a second Cup of Nations title 48 years after lifting the trophy in Ethiopia.
Morocco sprang to international prominence two years ago in Qatar when they became the first African World Cup semi-finalists after eliminating Spain and Portugal in knockout matches.
The victory over group outsiders Tanzania in the southwest of the Ivory Coast was anticipated as Morocco are ranked 13th in the world, 108 places above the Taifa Stars.
Morocco began with seven of the team that started in the 2-0 World Cup semi-final loss to France in Qatar.
There were three La Liga players, two each from the Premier League and Ligue 1 and two with Saudi Pro League sides. Moroccans with Turkish and Egyptian clubs completed the line-up.
This contrasted sharply with Tanzania, whose line-up included Tarryn Allarakhia from English fifth-tier outfit Wealdstone. The winger struggled and was replaced after 38 minutes.
As expected, Morocco established territorial and possession dominance from the kick-off in a stadium named after deceased Ivorian star Laurent Pokou.
Ivorian star honoured
His five goals in a 1970 Afcon group match is a record for an individual scorer that still stands, and the official match balls for the 2024 tournament are also named after him.
En-Nesyri, one of the seven survivors from the semi-final against France, had a half-chance after nine minutes, but did not connect cleanly with the ball and it flew wide.
Tanzania displayed intensity, both in movement and tackling, but it came as no surprise when they fell behind on the half-hour mark in 31 Celsius heat.
Hakim Ziyech, on loan to Galatasaray from Chelsea, lifted a free-kick over the defensive wall and when goalkeeper Aisha Manula failed to grasp it, Saiss poked the loose ball over the line.
Experienced Manula must shoulder some of the blame as he parried the ball infield rather than away from his goal.
When the teams left the pitch at half-time, it must have concerned Algeria-born Tanzania coach Adel Amrouche that his side did not produce a single goal attempt in 45 minutes.
Tanzanian hopes of levelling suffered a huge blow with 20 minutes remaining when Miroshi fouled Ounahi and was sent off for his second yellow-card offence.
Ounahi rounded off slick, short passing to increase the Moroccan lead on 77 minutes with a low shot from inside the box that flew past Manula into the corner of the net.
Tanzania were battling with 10 men and conceded again on 80 minutes when En-Nesyri fired a cross into the net for a goal that was confirmed by VAR two minutes later.
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