Chief among them was top scorer Ayoub El Kaabi, who plundered a record nine goals in guiding Morocco’s Atlas Lions to success. It was Morocco’s first football silverware in forty two years.
Only a staggering case of ill fortune can stop the burly centre forward from securing a big money move to Europe. A big beneficially of El Kaabi’s Morocco 2018 exploits is Herve Renard’s World Cup bound squad. El Kaabi will compliment the dexterity of dribbling wizard Sofiane Boufal and the calm, assured leadership of skipper Mehdi Amine El Mouttaqi Benatia.
And yet El Kaabi isn’t the only player Morocco’s Group B opponents will be worried about at Russia 2018. Eduardo Santos (Portugal), Julien Lopetegui (Spain) and Carlos Quieroz (Iran) will also have taken notice of a few others from Morocco’s triumphant side.
Zakaria Hadraf, who opened the scoring and battered the tournament’s best right back all evening, is a player who should be plying his trade in one of Europe’s top five leagues. Only Libya’s diminutive No. 7 Ablo came anywhere close to Hadraf’s exuberant wing play.
Wydad Casablanca winger Ismail El Haddad was equally impressive with his energetic running down the flanks. Haddad formed a telepathic double act with El Kaabi. He should be seeking greener pastures across the Mediterranean Sea. Besides the aforementioned triumvirate, it’s easy to see left back Abdeljalil Jbira and Walid El Karti forcing their way into Renard’s World Cup squad. Jbira was a pure dynamo, working the 100 yard line with enthusiasm reminiscent of Roberto Carlos. El Karti, was meanwhile very much the Atlas Lions directing intelligence, augmenting his probing passes with a number of goals.
If I was to name a team of the tournament, I would include Nigeria Super Eagles right back Osas Okoro. He was a driving force on the right side, complimenting defensive stoutness with tireless running down the right.
Losing finalists Nigeria also unearthed gems in midfield powerhouse Dayo Ojo who should be strong competition for established stars Onazi, John Obi Mikel and Wilfred Ndidi for a place in Gernot Rohr’s Russia 2018 squad.
From East, Central and Southern Africa, Sudan keeper El Hadi Akram, who cut his teeth at the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup, was the tourney’s best custodian, whereas Zambia’s Chipolopolo gave us Augustine Mulenga, who netted a beauty in guiding Wedson Nyirenda’s side into the knock out rounds.