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Morocco Black Devils Favored to Take CAF Title

FILE - A picture showing the trophy of the Confederation of African Football's (CAF) Confederation Cup, taken in Cairo, December 28, 2018
FILE - A picture showing the trophy of the Confederation of African Football's (CAF) Confederation Cup, taken in Cairo, December 28, 2018

JOHANNESBURG - Moroccan armed forces club and former African champions, FAR Rabat will be the team to beat in the CAF Confederation Cup knockout stage this season.

Coached by former France indoor football international Fernando da Cruz, the Black Devils have won seven and drawn four of 12 qualifying and group matches en route to the quarter-finals.

The 22 goals they scored have been shared among 13 players with the four of Cape Verde international Diney Borges making him the unlikely leading scorer as he is a centre-back.

FAR are the only quarter-finalists this season in the African equivalent of the UEFA Europa League who have won a CAF competition.

They achieved two firsts for Morocco by the winning the African Cup of Champions Clubs - later renamed the CAF Champions League - in 1985 and the Confederation Cup 20 years later.

But after finishing runners-up in the Confederation Cup a year after winning it, FAR faded as a force in Africa while Casablanca clubs Raja and Wydad won CAF competitions.

Last year, the Rabat club did not even make the group stage of the Confederation Cup, losing home and away to JS Kabylie of Algeria in the second qualifying round.

They return to Algeria this weekend for the first leg of a quarter-final against USM Alger who, along with FAR and Pyramids of Egypt, have previously reached the knockout stage.

The other hopefuls - Marumo Gallants of South Africa, US Monastir of Tunisia, ASEC Mimosas of the Ivory Coast, Rivers United of Nigeria and Young Africans of Tanzania - are first-time qualifiers.

Should FAR eliminate USM, whose line-up includes 2022 African Nations Championship leading scorer Aymen Mahious, they would confront Monastir or ASEC for a place in the final.

The Tunisian and Ivorian sides have lost only once each in eight African outings and boast regular scorers in Boubacar Traore and Aubin Kramo respectively.

Pyramids are competing in the Confederation Cup for the fourth straight season having reached the 2020 final, the semi-finals the following year and the 2022 quarter-finals.

Their multi-national line-up includes veteran Tunisian Fakhreddine Ben Youssef, the leading scorer in the competition with six goals, including a hat-trick.

They face Marumo, who have won seven of 10 matches in Africa but only five of 26 in the South African Premiership, leaving them battling to avoid relegation.