Achraf Hakimi missed a late penalty as Morocco became the latest big name to be knocked out with a 2-0 loss to South Africa in the round of 16 on Tuesday.
Evidence Makgopa’s 57th-minute strike and a free kick from Teboho Mokoena in the fifth minute of stoppage time sent the Bafana Bafana through to the quarterfinals at Morocco’s expense.
“We’re very disappointed because we came with the ambition of winning it. Going out so early in the tournament wasn’t expected, but this cup is really difficult. Lots of surprises,” said Morocco coach Walid Regragui, who returned after having his suspension lifted but now faces an uncertain future.
“I said that Morocco was due in the semifinal whatever happened, so we will have a good discussion. In any case, I never hide from taking responsibilities, mine at least. I failed. So there you have it,” Regragui said.
World Cup semifinalist Morocco was without wingers Hakim Ziyech and Sofiane Boufal, both injured in the win over Zambia, but defender Noussair Mazraoui made his first start after recovering from a thigh injury.
The Atlas Lions, who created more chances, were stunned when Themba Zwane sent Makgopa though to score.
They responded with increased pressure but had to wait till the 82nd for a lifeline when Mothobi Mvala was penalized for blocking Ayoub El Kaabi’s shot with his arm.
Instead of tying the score at 1-1, however, Hakimi grazed the top of the crossbar with the spot kick in the 85th.
The Atlas Lions’ task was further complicated when midfielder Sofyan Amrabat was sent off in injury time, and Mokoena sealed their fate a minute later when he fired inside the top left corner.
Morocco follows defending champion Senegal, seven-time champion Egypt, five-time winner Cameroon, four-time champion Ghana, along with former winners Algeria and Tunisia to be knocked out ahead of the quarterfinal stage.
“We were warned, we made uncharacteristic mistakes that were unlike us. But I take responsibility today for the choices, for everything that happened today,” Regragui said. “The penalty happens, it’s football. Ashraf could perhaps have let us back into the match. But then when you look at the situations, how we let go. It doesn’t reflect our team. So there you go. Congratulations to South Africa.”
The Bafana Bafana will next play Cape Verde in Yamoussoukro on Saturday.
“Beating a team like Morocco is something special,” South Africa coach Hugo Broos said. “We are very, very, very happy.”
None of the eight quarterfinalists in the last edition of the Africa Cup in Cameroon have made it to the last eight this time, nor have any of the five African teams that played at the 2022 World Cup.
Mali held on to beat Burkina Faso 2-1 to set up a quarterfinal match against tournament host Ivory Coast.
An own-goal from Edmond Tapsoba and second-half strike from Lassine Sinayoko were enough for the Eagles to win the round-of-16 game, the last match of the tournament to be played in Korhogo.
Mali will next play Ivory Coast in Bouaké on Saturday, when the home team can count on supporters whose belief has been restored after beating defending champion Senegal on Monday.
Burkina Faso, which has repeatedly gone close to winning its first Africa Cup title in recent years, will have to prolong its wait after a campaign that never really sparked into life. The Stallions edged Mauritania 1-0, then drew 2-2 with Algeria, before losing their final group game 2-0 to Angola.