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Africa Cup of Nations

Afcon weaker for Aubameyang absence - Morocco coach

11:33 PM IST 18/01/22
Aubameyang Gabon CAN
Vahid Halilhodzic believes that Gabon will still pose an attacking threat to his Atlas Lions side

Morocco coach Vahid Halilhodzic has lamented Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Africa Cup of Nations exit for the good of the tournament, but isn’t convinced that it will boost Morocco’s chances when they face Gabon in their final Group C meeting on Tuesday.

The Arsenal striker returned to London on Monday after being given permission to leave the camp by Fegafoot in order to seek further treatment on the post-coronavirus health concerns that have been identified in Cameroon.

Speaking ahead of Morocco’s meeting with the Panthers, Halilhodzic spoke about the attacker’s departure from the Nations Cup.

“On Aubameyang, I know that he had some health problems with Covid, like some other players here, and of course it’s a shame for the Afcon,” Coach Vahid told GOAL.

“He’s a big name of football and for Gabon, having done it in England, Germany, and France, and he’s a big player when it comes to goalscoring, where he’s one of the best of the continent.

“It’s a shame for Gabon.”

Despite being without Aubameyang for their opening two fixtures at the Nations Cup—the first when he was out with Covid-19, and the second after doctors identified residue of the illness in his system—the Panthers have taken four points from their opening two matches and looked potent.

Aaron Boupendza scored a fine effort to dispatch Comoros in their opener, before Jim Allevinah came off the bench to net the late equaliser in the ill-tempered draw with Ghana.

“Is it better for us? I don’t know,” Halilhodzic continued. “I don’t care for this deference towards our opponent.

“Gabon have many other good attackers who can replace him at this level,” the coach concluded. “It’s a shame for him and for Gabon.”

Denis Bouanga is also absent for the Panthers after testing positive for coronavirus, while Mario Lemina was sent home along with Aubameyang after finding himself in the same boat as the skipper.

Despite a wealth of attacking options, Morocco have not been free-flowing themselves at the Nations Cup.

Sofiane Boufal scored the only goal of the game to dispatch Ghana with a fine late winner, while they had to wait to the death to kill the game against lowly Comoros following a fine display by the minnows’ goalkeeper Salim Ben Boina.