Sellami: Morocco will be stronger despite Sudan stalemate
Even though Morocco ended their 100 percent record with a goalless draw against Sudan on Sunday, coach Jamal Sellami is confident his decision to play a much-changed side will serve the African Nations Championship hosts well.
With Morocco already qualified for the quarter finals after winning their first two matches, Sellami opted to shuffle his pack, with only one of the 11 players to have started the first two matches - Nayef Aguerd - retaining his place in the side.
Predictably, Morocco lacked the cohesion that had characterised their first two fixtures, and Sudan did have the second-half chances that could have taken them through as group winners instead of the Atlas Lions.
Nonetheless, Sellami is confident that his decision to give Morocco's reserve players a run out will serve them well as the tournament wears on.
"We gave an opportunity for the substitutes to play and we we didn't get any yellow cards and nobody was injured," he told journalists. "This was important for us for the next stage.
"Now we have six days to prepare, and I think we'll be ready for the quarter final," Sellami continued. "It was important for us - as hosts - to qualify in the first two matches, and having guaranteed our progress, this was an opportunity for the other players."
Sellami's reshuffle led to two of Morocco's would-be star men - Walid El Karti and Achraf Bencharki - being given a first start of the tournament, although the latter missed a second-half penalty during a frustrating display.
Nonetheless, Ahmed Hammoudan won admirers with a lively display, while forward Ayoub Nanah was a busy, bustling presence throughout.
"They were competitive against a well organised team," Sellami continued. "It was important for us to play the replacements, some of whom are coming back from injury and some of whom haven't been fit.
"We took this opportunity to bring them back," he added. "The objective was to stay in Casablanca, not to pick up any cards or injuries, and to rotate the team."
The draw means that Morocco end their group-stage campaign atop Group A with seven points, level with Sudan but ahead on goal different, to set up a quarter-final showdown with Group B runners-up Namibia.
Guinea finish third after beating Mauritania in their final group game, while the Mourabitounes make the short trip home pointless.
Ed Dove is the Soccer Editor for KweséESPN. Follow him on Twitter @EddyDove.