Morocco coach Walid Regragui said he blundered as his team drew 1-1 in an Africa Cup of Nations Group F draw against the Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday.
Achraf Hakimi gave the Atlas Lions a perfect start as his sixth-minute volley flew into the net in the southwestern coastal city of San-Pedro.
But after Cedric Bakambu missed a penalty for the Leopards, they levelled on 76 minutes through a shot from substitute Silas Katompa Mvumpa.
Tanzania and 10-man Zambia later drew 1-1, leaving all four with a chance of making the knockout stage.
It is a similar situation in Group E after South Africa put a loss to Mali behind them with a 4-0 triumph over Namibia in Korhogo, where veteran Themba Zwane scored twice.
Morocco, who two years ago in Qatar became the first World Cup semi-finalists from Africa, have four points from two matches, DR Congo and Zambia two each and Tanzania one.
Regragui, named African Coach of the Year at the annual CAF awards last month afer his World Cup achievements, told reporters that his second-half substitutions did not work.
“After making changes to introduce freshness, we did not manage the match well. We retreated and allowed the Congolese back into the game.
“We left too much space between our lines. Tactically we should have been better. Perhaps we respected our opponents too much.
“DR Congo are the most difficult team in the group. They were motivated and dangerous and deserved to draw,” said Regragui, who played for Morocco in a 2004 final loss to Tunisia.
Silas, who plays for Bundesliga outfit Stuttgart and prefers to be known by his first name, was voted man of the match, despite only coming on with 26 minutes left. He said he was “happy with the award but not the result”.
“There were opportunities toward the end of the match for us to collect all three points. We noticed the Moroccans were tired and we created scoring opportunities.
– Relief from heat –
“I would like to start games, but that decision is not mine. I follow the instructions of our coach and prepare mentally for whatever task I am assigned.”
The match was the last in the tournament to kick off at 1400 local (GMT) time, which will be a huge relief to teams forced to endure 36 Celsius (97 Fahrenheit) heat at times.
Aliou Cisse, coach of defending champions Senegal, has called on the organisers to rethink match times for future Cup of Nations, starting with the 2025 finals in Morocco.
Tanzania thought they had finally won a Cup of Nations match 44 years after making their debut in Nigeria only to be thwarted by star Zambia forward Patson Daka.
Daka’s near-post header flew past Aisha Manula with just two minutes of regular time remaining.
The Taifa Stars, the second lowest ranked team at the tournament, took an 11th-minute lead when clubless Simon Msuva slammed a close-range shot past goalkeeper Lawrence Mulenga.
Zambia were reduced to 10 men just before half-time when captain Roderick Kabwe was shown a second yellow card, then a red after elbowing rival skipper Mbwana Samatta.
Amid furious Zambian protests, coach Avram Grant, the former Chelsea and West Ham United manager, was yellow-carded by the Beninese referee.
Themba Zwane, whose international career appeared over after coach Hugo Broos said he was “too old” for international football at 32, was the two-goal South African star against Namibia.
After Percy Tau atoned for a penalty miss against Mali by converting a spot-kick in the 14th minute, Zwane netted twice to give the former champions a three-goal half-time advantage.
Now 34, Zwane was replaced in the closing stages by Thapelo Maseko, who scored to give South Africa a record winning margin in a Cup of Nations match.
Despite the biggest win so far in the tournament, South Africa are not assured of a last-16 place. Mali have four points, South Africa and Namibia three each and Tunisia one.