TANZANIA: PRESIDENT Samia Suluhu Hassan has urged Taifa Stars players to keep fighting without losing hope ahead of their two upcoming Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) fixtures.
Her message to the National Team comes after they failed to shine in front of the World Cup semi-finalists, Morocco ‘Atlas Lions” when they opened their 2023 AFCON finals campaign in Ivory Coast with a 3-0 defeat in Group F matches that witnessed group colleagues Zambia and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) share spoils in a 1-1 draw.
Through her Instagram account, President Samia posted a picture of the Taifa Stars squad saying: “A good game tonight for our national players, even though luck was not on our side. We continue to wish you all the best and the nation is behind you in your next matches.”
Also, President Samia who has been on the frontline to ensure the nation rallies behind the team, and to prove her support before the kickoff of the match against Morocco, called and talked with players to encourage and motivate them ahead of their big test and upcoming fixtures in the AFCON finals.
In her pep talk with Stars players, the President promised to reward every goal they score during the finals.
Speaking after the game Stars Captain Mbwana Samata said they tried to play well as per the Coach’s instructions but their opponents Morocco were too good for them to contain. However, he said that they have not lost hope as they still have two games in hand to determine their fate.
“We tried to play well and follow our coach’s instructions but our opponent Morocco was too good in all sections, but we still have two games left, we will do our best as our target is to qualify for the next round,” he unveiled. Samatta also noted that they still have a chance to do better despite a false start and his teammates must put their emotions aside and focus on their next game against Zambia which is vital if they real progress into the next round.
On his part, Morocco Head Coach Walid Regragui expressed his satisfaction after his side beat Taifa Stars 3-0.
“First matches are always difficult and the humidity made this one tough, but we respected Tanzania, the team’s spirit was very good and we got an important win,” said Regragui.
It has been a Cup of Nations full of unexpected results in the opening round of games but playing on the final day of the opening round provided Morocco with the opportunity to plan accordingly.
“Seeing the first matches allowed us to avoid the same mistakes. We noticed many sides declined physically in the second half, so we prepared to stay fresh,” Regragui said.
Tanzania coach Adel Amrouche was left disappointed by the manner of the defeat after he had high hopes of an upset.
“Our game plan failed. We did not expect this scenario but I congratulate Morocco for their performance and result. The quality of Morocco’s players made the difference and they deserved to win. “We wanted a good result but I also had a lot of injuries which did not help us. We then made individual mistakes. I’m trying to stay optimistic. We will correct our errors from this game and focus on the upcoming matches,” he said.
The Moroccans now will face DRC on January 21st in their second group game of Group F, as the coach will hope his talented side can maintain intensity. All is not lost for Stars as they have two extra games to play of which they have an opportunity to win both of them and make it to the last 16. Up next, Tanzania face neighbours Zambia on Sunday in their second assignment of the contest. 24 teams will be wrestling for the lucrative trophy.
It is a journey that will last until February 11th this year when the world will know the new AFCON champions of the contest in case the incumbent holders Senegal fail to defend it.