MENA Sports Wrap: Morocco reign supreme in AFCON futsal final

MENA Sports Wrap: Morocco reign supreme in AFCON futsal final
Morocco thrashed Angola to clinch Africa's top futsal trophy, while things are heating up in Qatar as the AFC U23 Asian Cup enters the quarterfinal stage.
4 min read
26 April, 2024
Morocco won the AFCON futsal tournament without losing a single game [Getty]

Morocco clinched the AFCON futsal trophy without losing a single game in Rabat this week, while Uzbekistan join the likes of Saudi Arabia, Iraq and hosts Qatar as they became the final team to take their place in the quarterfinals of the AFC U23 Asian Cup.

The Saudi Pro League could be adding another European talent to its ranks, with Liverpool and England legend Steven Gerrard, currently manager of Al-Ettifaq, set to raid his old club Glasgow Rangers for their club captain James Tavernier. 

Morocco reign supreme in AFCON futsal final

Morocco's futsal team clinched the Africa Cup of Nations trophy on Sunday, defeating Angola 5-1 in an exhilarating match in the capital, Rabat.

Moroccoโ€™s team remained unbeaten throughout the competition, scoring more goals than any other team, with a total of 37 finishes.

The Moroccan squad had already faced Angola at the beginning of the tournament, defeating them 5-2 in a group-stage match.

The team, backed by their home crowd, had won several other accolades.

Bilal Bakkali was named the best player of the competition, while Abdelkrim Anbia received the award for best goalkeeper.

Soufian Charraoui, alongside Angola's Chico and Helber, was among the top scorers of the competition with 7 goals.

The Moroccan squad, also nicknamed the Atlas Lions, is ranked eighth worldwide, making them the highest-ranked team in both the African continent and the Arab world.

The Libyan team also felled giants Egypt in a penalty shoot-out to secure third place in the competition, after a 2-2 draw.

Following their victory, the Atlas Lions will now gear up for the Futsal World Cup, slated to take place in Uzbekistan in September.

AFC U23 Asian Cup heats up as top teams advance to quarterfinals

Uzbekistan's 3-0 victory over Vietnam at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha this Tuesday finalised the remaining match-ups for the upcoming AFC U23 Asian Cup quarterfinals scheduled later this week.

Uzbekistan is set to return to Khalifa International Stadium on Friday to face Saudi Arabia, the 2018 champions, who secured second place in Group C.

Saudi Arabia had been leading their group until an unexpected defeated in their final group match by a revitalised Iraqi team.

Iraq, having initially lost their opening match against Thailand, staged a remarkable comeback by defeating Tajikistan, setting the stage for a crucial group finale.

Thursday's quarterfinals will kick off with hosts Qatar taking on 2016 champions Japan, followed by 2020 winners South Korea against debutants Indonesia on the same day.

Friday will see Uzbekistan play Saudi Arabia, with Iraq playing Vietnam in the final quarterfinal tie. The top three teams will qualify for the Paris Olympics with the fourth-placed side qualifying for an intercontinental play-off against Guinea for a place at the 2024 Games.

Al-Ettifaq's Steven Gerrard to raid former club Rangers

Al-Ettifaq manager Steven Gerrard is poised to make a sensational move for current Rangers captain James Tavernier.

Gerrard worked with Tavernier during his three-year tenure in charge of the Glasgow giants, with the Liverpool legend reportedly still a huge admirer of the 32-year-old Englishman.

According to Saudi media outlet Slaati, Gerrard is ready to launch a bid to bring Tavernier to the Saudi Pro League.

Gerrard has allegedly "demanded" that the Al-Ettifaq bosses provide the necessary funds to lure Tavernier away from Rangers, a request that has now been approved for the summer.

Tavernier is the second-leading scorer in the Scottish Premiership this season, with 17 goals, an astonishing feat for a right-back. With 131 goals, the Englishman is the highest-scoring British defender of all time.

Although the Rangers captain is among the clubโ€™s highest earners, Al-Ettifaq could easily double or even triple his wages, in addition to paying a significant fee for his services.

The signing of Tavernier could be a much-needed shot in the arm for Gerrard, with his Al-Ettifaq side languishing at 7th in the league and failing to find consistency this season.

There were reports that the club considered dismissing Gerrard due to the run of poor form. However, if true, the approval of the Tavernier deal suggests the club believes he can turn things around next season.