Morocco, Egypt chase Olympic Games ticket

By Nick CavellBBC Sport, Morocco
Senegalese duo Khassim Soumar and Younes Itri crowd out Lotfi Obilla of Morocco
Morocco (in red) could not beat Senegal (in white) in their last group game

Hosts Morocco take on Egypt in the second semi-final of the African Olympic qualifying tournament on Wednesday in Marrakesh.

Egypt had been due to host the tournament, which is also the first ever African Under-23 Championship, but withdrew in October as it clashed with parliamentary elections.

The north African rivals have a rich history at the Games - Egypt are aiming for an 11th appearance, but their first since 1992, while it would be Morocco's 7th, who last played in 2004.

Egypt had the chance to win Africa's first Olympic footbal medal in Amsterdam in 1928 but in the end were humiliated 11-3 by Italy in the game for bronze.

They then took bronze again, after losing 3-1 to East Germany in Japan in 1964.

Both sides have suffered one defeat so far at the event - Morocco lost 1-0 to Senegal while Egypt went down by the same scoreline to Ivory Coast.

The Moroccans, under former Australia coach Pim Verbeek, started the tournament well with wins over Nigeria and then Algeria but stuttered as they lost to Senegal on Friday.

Verbeek's side have had the best part of four days to rest since that defeat as he admitted that his players were tired last time out.

"They were tired especially in the second-half as the put on the pressure to score a goal you could see the sharpness was not there," he told BBC Sport.

"So I don't mind going to Marrakesh because we have one day more and that can make a difference during this tournament."

He has one injury doubt for the game with Yacine Qasmi who will face a late fitness test to decide if he can start against Egypt.

Egypt will have picked up some confidence with their 2-0 win over South Africa to progress to the last four especially as they were made to work for the victory.

Goalkeeper Ahmed El Shenawi making several good saves to ensure that his side advanced.

In former World Cup player Hany Ramzy as coach the Egyptians have someone who can help his players deal with the pressure of a semi-final against the hosts, who will have all the fans behind them.

Both sides will also take comfort in the knowledge that a loss in this game is not the end of their Olympic dreams, they can still qualify with a win in Saturday's third place play-off.

Even a loss in that game and there is still one more chance with a game against and Asian side next year deciding another spot at the Games.