Walid Regragui suspension mars Morocco's win over Zambia in Afcon 2023

Atlas Lions' victory allows hosts Ivory Coast to qualify for the knockouts

Powered by automated translation

Morocco eased past Zambia 1-0 at the Africa Cup of Nations on Wednesday to finish top in Group F but the result was overshadowed by the suspension of their manager Walid Regragui.

Hakim Ziyech left the pitch with an ankle injury at half time but not before a smart close-range finish in the 38th minute that secured victory for Morocco and also kept hosts Ivory Coast in the tournament.

However, Morocco's win was marred by a four-game ban – with two suspended – that was handed out on Wednesday over heated scenes at the match against Congo on Sunday.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) also imposed fines of $20,000 each on the federations of Morocco and Congo, plus $5,000 on Regragui.

Regragui, who led his country to the World Cup semi-finals in 2022, was involved in an on-field spat with Congo captain Chancel Mbemba at the end of their match in San Pedro.

The incident led to scuffles between opposing players as well as staff on the pitch and alleged fighting in the tunnel at the stadium, but out of public view.

CAF's statement also said it fined the Moroccan federation an additional $10,000 “for the use of smoke bombs by its supporters during the match,” with half the amount suspended.

The Moroccan federation said it will appeal CAF’s “unjust decision” to ban Regragui because the coach "did not commit any behavior that violates the spirit of sportsmanship.”

Regragui had gone to shake Mbemba’s hand at the end of the match but held onto it as he tried to remonstrate with the defender, who repeatedly tried to pull away before breaking loose.

That set off general mayhem at the end of a 1-1 draw.

“He insulted me and my assistant on the sidelines before the end of the match,” Regragui claimed when talking to reporters after Sunday’s match.

“And in the end, despite that, I went to shake his hand but also to ask him: ‘Why are you talking to me like that?’ Then he looked away like he didn’t want to shake my hand. I held his hand, you can see that in the images, and he started screaming in every direction.

"He claimed I had called him an idiot but I never said that. He should be a little honest with himself.”

Regragui watched from the stands as Morocco beat Zambia on Wednesday. The Atlas Lions will stay in San-Pedro for a last-16 clash with South Africa next Tuesday, without Regragui.

Morocco's result was celebrated across the host nation as it allowed Ivory Coast to squeeze into the next round as one of the four best third-placed teams.

The Elephants had been staring at the prospect of a group-stage exit after a stunning 4-0 defeat by Equatorial Guinea on Monday.

They were the first Afcon host in 40 years to lose two group games, but a 2-0 victory over Guinea-Bissau in their opening match ultimately proved sufficient.

However, they now face a daunting tie against reigning champions Senegal in capital city Yamoussoukro next Monday, and they will have to manage with a new coach.

Veteran French boss Jean-Louis Gasset was dismissed by the Ivorian Football Federation on Wednesday, with assistant Emerse Fae stepping up to replace him.

Meanwhile, Congo set up a last-16 clash with seven-time winners Egypt after playing out a 0-0 draw with Tanzania in their final Afcon Group F fixture.

The Congolese finish second in the pool with three points following a trio of draws and advance along with group winners Morocco.

Mali, South Africa and Namibia all advanced to the last 16 when they took part in the tournament’s first goalless games.

Mali’s 0-0 draw with Namibia was enough to top Group E, while South Africa clinched second place on goal difference from Namibia by drawing 0-0 with Tunisia.

Mali finished with five points, one more than South Africa and Namibia, while Tunisia were eliminated after finishing bottom of the group.

Updated: January 25, 2024, 5:52 AM