Morocco on a roll after local triumph

  • Morocco won the 2018 African Nations Championship on home soil​

  • Fellow Russia 2018 hopefuls Nigeria finished as runners-up

  • The African Nations Championship is contested by African-based players

Truly, these are heady times for Moroccan football.

The tone was set when the Atlas Lions booked their place at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, a major success that clinched their return after a 20-year absence and sparked euphoria across the nation. That achievement owed much to players plying their trade abroad, especially in Europe, and there was more to come at the weekend as their locally based counterparts gave fans a whole new reason to cheer.

Morocco's latest triumph came at the fifth edition of the CAF African Nations Championship, a competition limited to players representing African clubs. Hosting the 2018 event, Morocco proved unstoppable and lifted the trophy after victory in Sunday's final. looks back at the big stories and standout facts from the recent tournament.

Historic first

Morocco broke new ground by becoming the first host nation to win the competition, making the most of home advantage after Côte d’Ivoire (2009), Sudan (2011), South Africa (2014) and Rwanda (2016) all missed out. Indeed, Côte d'Ivoire and South Africa failed to even progress beyond the group stage, but Morocco lifted the curse in style. Their victory was all the more impressive as they were only awarded the tournament last September, taking over from original hosts Kenya.

Dominant duo

Just two of Africa's five representatives at the 2018 World Cup managed to reach the 2018 African Nations Championship, with Morocco joined by Nigeria in the finals after Egypt, Senegal and Tunisia all fell by the wayside in qualifying. The two teams lived up to their billing by dominating the field at the 16-nation event, which culminated with Morocco defeating Nigeria 4-0 in the decider.

Setbacks and surprises

Having missed out on a berth at Russia 2018, some of Africa's traditional heavyweights travelled to Morocco eager to make their experience count. Cameroon and Côte d'Ivoire both set out with lofty ambitions, but disappointment awaited as the two sides ended the group stage with a solitary point apiece. Worse still, the Elephants failed to score a single goal.

In contrast, Libya exceeded all expectations. The Mediterranean Knights had to prepare amid difficult conditions, but they responded by reaching the semi-finals, where they lost 1-0 to Nigeria, before succumbing to fellow surprise package Sudan in the play-off for third place. There was also much to admire from Namibia, quarter-finalists on their maiden appearance, and Congo, who saw off holders Congo DR in qualifying before advancing to the last eight.

Key figures

  • Morocco recorded five wins and a draw in six games, scoring 16 goals and conceding just twice

  • Roll of honour: Congo DR (2009), Tunisia (2011), Libya (2014), Congo DR (2016), Morocco (2018)

  • Top scorers: Ayoub El Kaabi (Morocco): 9 goals; Augustine Kabaso Mulenga (Zambia) and Abrahim Taher Saeid (Libya): 3 goals