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Benatia under no illusions as Morocco prepare for Togo test

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Benatia under no illusions as Morocco prepare for Togo test

Morocco defender Medhi Benatia is fully aware that his side can accept nothing less than a victory when they meet Togo in their second Nations Cup match in Oyem on Friday.

The Atlas Lions were one of the biggest disappointments of the first round of fixtures when they were pipped 1-0 by the Democratic Republic of Congo in a jungle showdown, and cannot afford to drop anymore points if they are to escape from the Group of Death.

“The next match is already decisive,” said Benatia, who plays for Juventus on loan from Bayern Munich. “We don’t have any choice.

“To hope to advance, we need to get the win, there’s no doubt,” he added. “Morocco’s objective this year is to get out of the group, so we need two wins after the defeat.”

Benatia was one of several experienced Moroccan players who underperformed against the Leopards, although the defender himself refused to criticise any of his team-mates, even goalkeeper Munir Mohand, whose error let Junior Kabananga in for the Congo’s opener.

“I don’t want to point the finger at anybody,” he added, “neither attack nor defence, we’re a team.

“We made a real effort, everyone battled for 96 minutes. We were warriors on the pitch but it wasn’t enough.”

Morocco and Togo meet in Oyem on Friday evening at 20:00, by which time the DRC could have already secured one of the two qualifying spots if they beat the Cote d’Ivoire in the day’s early kickoff.

Herve Renard’s North Africans then conclude their group stage campaign against his former side – the Elephants – on Tuesday.

This is Morocco’s first Afcon campaign since 2013, having been disqualified in 2015. While the quality and experience of Renard should give them an edge over their opponents, it’s worth noting that they haven’t escaped from the group stage in any of their last four appearances, since finishing runners-up in 2004.


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