Gabon's U23s chase maiden Caf success against Morocco

By Nick CavellBBC Sport, Morocco
Morocco's Under-23 side
Morocco will hope to put a large home support to their advantage as they entertain a Gabon side chasing its first continental Caf title at any age level

Either hosts Morocco or Gabon will be crowned the inaugural Under-23 champions of Africa when the final take places in Marrakesh on Saturday.

Both sides will expect to build on the confidence of having already qualified for the Olympic Games to carry them through one final match.

Morocco will start as the favourites since they can expect to have more fanatical support behind them.

Meanwhile, Gabon are after their first continental Caf crown in any age group.

And the side from the country hosting next month's Africa Cup of Nations will know that they have ridden their luck in their last two wins over Ivory Coast and then Senegal.

The 3-1 scoreline against Ivory Coast was flattering and it was with practically the final touch of the ball at the end of extra-time that the Gabonese saw off Senegal.

In both games, the Gabonese defended solidly and relied on counter attacks as well as their opponents' inability in front of goal.

As hosts, Morocco will want to play well in front of their home crowd and reward them with the maiden trophy at this level.

The Moroccans' sole youth crown came when winning the Under-20 championships in 1997, where they beat South Africa 1-0 in the final.

"It's an African Cup and for the people of Morocco it will be great to win the tournament and so we are still motivated to win it," said Younes Mokhtar, the Holland-based star who scored Morocco's third in the semi.

However, the Moroccans will be without influential midfielder Abdelaziz Barrada, who scored two goals in the semi-final win over Egypt, as he has returned to his Spanish club Getafe.

Barrada asked coach Pim Verbeek if he could stay but there had been agreement before the tournament started that he would return on 7 December, meaning he had already been given an extra day to play against Egypt.

Organisers will hope that moving the kick-off times forward by three hours for both games means fans will come and out - since the matches will no longer clash with the big Spanish league derby between Barcelona and Real Madrid.

The other official reason given for the change in kick-off times from 1730GMT and 2030GMT is that the Marrakesh International Film Festival is currently taking place.