RABAT/CAIRO: Morocco has sprung a surprise on African football by withdrawing from the race to host the 2019 Nations Cup as late replacement for Cameroon – leaving South Africa as likely venue,

After the Confederation of African Football (CAF) decided to move the tournament last week over doubts to do with Cameroon’s delivery of infrastructure and security fears, Morocco and South Africa were installed as early favourites to play emergency host.

Magdi Abdelghani, board member of the Egyptian Football Association (EFA), even suggested that Morocco would have the backing of CAF to step in, but now it appears that the North African country does not wish to host the biennial soccer tournament.

However Moroccan Minister of Youth and Sport Rachid Talbi Alami told local media: “Morocco did not intend to run for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations and will not do so.”

At the time of making the decision to remove Cameroon as host, and despite the West African nation’s preparations having long lagged behind schedule, CAF admitted that it had “no plan B” in place for the tournament which takes place next June.

Morocco’s announcement leaves South Africa in pole position to take on the tournament, which has been expanded to 24 teams and is being played in the summer for the first time.

SAFA has said it is “seriously considering” hosting the competition, but the decision rests with the South African government, who will be consulted by the association in the near future. South Africa previously stepped in to host the 2013 edition after Libya withdrew.