On the second Friday of 2018, officials from the Confederation of African Football (CAF) gathered in Casablanca to formally start the fifth Total African Nations Championship, a continental tournament that features players actively signed to local leagues. This competition, which goes by the name Total CHAN Morocco 2018, is important for many reasons, and one of them is that FIFA officials are closely watching the organization efforts of the host country, which is a candidate to host the 2026 World Cup.
CAF president Ahmad Ahmad briefly spoke before giving permission for kickoff the next day at Complexe Sportif Mohamed V, where the host national team of Morocco completely ran over Mauritania by a score of four goals to nothing before a packed and very cheerful stadium. This was the only match of Saturday, and the locals celebrated across the country until late at night. Moroccan winger Abdelilah Hafidi was responsible for setting up the assists that made three of the four goals possible, a performance that was certainly noticed by scouts from European leagues.
On Sunday, the first surprise of the tournament was handed to the Ivory Coast Elephants, who are perennial favorites but lost by one goal to Namibia, a very defensive and scrappy squad that showed a very strong back line. Sudan came away with a 2-1 victory against Guinea while Zambia easily won 3-1 against Uganda in an erratic match.
On Monday, the national team of Libya pulled off an impressive win over Equatorial Guinea by a margin of three goals to nothing; the match was played in the historic city of Tangier and required constant warnings and bookings by the referee. Also on Monday, Nigeria was unable to score against Rwanda in the first drawn match of CHAN Morocco 2018, and this was seen as a disappointment since the Nigerian Super Eagles were expected to easily win this match. On Tuesday, another 0-0 draw took place between the national teams of Angola and Burkina Faso while Cameroon and Congo were scheduled to play later in the day to complete the first round of matches in the group stages.
As can be expected, the most anticipated match for Wednesday will be Morocco against Guinea. Judging by the solid performance by the host national team on Saturday night, the odds are heavily in favor of Morocco to win by a comfortable margin.
With the Moroccan national team playing as if this was their World Cup moment, football analysts and bettors are seeing a greater potential for the hosts to reach the finals. On the other end of the CHAN 2018 spectrum, Nigerian fans are concerned that their beloved Super Eagles may end up struggling to advance to the next rounds. The Eagles arrived in Morocco as favorites, but their inability to score against Rwanda has cast doubts about the next match against Libya, the defending champions and current leaders of Group C; in fact, football analyst Colin Udoh of ESPN recently commented that Nigeria does not look like a national team that can prevail against Morocco or Libya.