Afcon 2021: Morocco had plenty of chances against Malawi but hesitated a lot – Halilhodzic

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Achraf Hakimi of Morocco coach Vahid Halilhodzic at Afcon.
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The Atlas Lions were forced to come from a goal down to extinguish the Flames and reach the last eight in Cameroon

Morocco coach Vahid Halilhodzic has called on his players to be more effective in front of the goal when they play in the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

The Atlas Lions booked their place in the last eight following a 2-1 victory against hard-fighting Malawi in the Round of 16 fixture at Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in Yaounde on Tuesday.

It was the Flames who took the lead when Orlando Pirates striker Gabadinho Mhango found the target in the seventh minute but Morocco levelled matters courtesy of Youssef En-Nesyri in the 45th minute before defender Achraf Hakimi grabbed the winner in the 70th minute.

Despite the win, Halilhodzic believes they created plenty of chances to win the game with a comfortable margin but it was not the case.

“It was not an easy game. When we conceded the goal, it made my team react and it was very complex. In the second half, we didn't lose concentration and managed to organise ourselves and take control of the game,” Halilhodzic told the media as quoted by CafOnline.

“We will remain committed and look to win the next games. We had plenty of chances and hesitated a lot. I hope that in the next game we will be more effective.

“I hope that the players who are injured recover and join the squad soon. We still have a lot of work ahead of us, we are aware that we are not at the level we want. I believe that with more games like these we can gain more confidence.”

Hakimi, who turns out for Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain and was voted man of the match after his wonder goal from a free-kick, said after the game: “We are all to be congratulated. This victory reflects the great teamwork shown by all of us.

“We will continue to work towards our goal. Today I also had the privilege of scoring a free-kick, I don't know which goal was the best. I will stop and watch to evaluate. This one was more difficult because of the angle.

“Right now, I’m focusing on my team and the next phase. I have been practising this kind of situations and I am happy when goals come in games.”

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In the last edition held in Egypt in 2019, the Atlas Lions failed to make it past the Round of 16 after losing to Benin in a penalty shoot-out after a 1-1 draw.

They will wait to face the winner between Ivory Coast and Egypt, who will face off in another knockout stage fixture on Wednesday, in the quarter-final.

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