LIBREVILLE, Gabon - Morocco faced a tough task to stay alive in the African Cup of Nations even before reserve goalkeeper Issam Badda was diagnosed with a mild form of malaria and leading striker Marouane Chamakh was hit by fever and a stomach illness.
Having lost to Tunisia in its Group C opener, Eric Gerets' team faces a buoyant Gabon which will be boosted again by a stadium of rowdy home supporters in Libreville on Friday.
Morocco, meanwhile, has been demoralized by a disappointing result against its North African rival and health worries over Badda and Chamakh. Forward Oussama As-Saidi is definitely out of the second match with injury, too.
Another loss and the talented Moroccans would match Senegal's surprising elimination from the tournament. The atmosphere was "tense" in the camp, coach Eric Gerets said on Thursday.
Badda had to receive a blood transfusion a day earlier at a Libreville hospital after being diagnosed with Type 3 malaria, while Chamakh underwent a series of tests after being seen by a doctor.
Both were recovering but Morocco's on-field form also needed some help after a careless display was punished by the Tunisians at Stade de l'Amitie.
"It's normal to be tense. It's the most important tournament in my life as a trainer," Gerets said. "We have come here with big ambitions and you see there are things lacking to get to where we want to be. So, I can say I have some concerns."
Gabon's 2-0 win over Niger in front of its loud, colorful and fiercely loyal home fans put the co-host in high spirits, but also warned of its ability to play slick, attacking football. A repeat of that intimidating atmosphere on Friday could carry Gabon to a place in the last eight — just like co-host Equatorial Guinea.
Morocco, meanwhile, missed chances against Tunisia and has yet to show the form that caused many to tip Gerets' team to go far.
"We know its going to be a tough match, a difficult match, maybe even more difficult than the match against Tunisia," Gerets said.
While Chamakh missed training on Wednesday he was expected to be available for the Gabon match. Badda will stay with the team and his scare wasn't on the players' minds anymore, captain Houssine Kharja said, who probably didn't expect to field questions on malaria in the buildup to a match.
But such is the unique nature of the African Cup.
"No we are not afraid, no. We know you can catch malaria here like you can get it elsewhere," the midfielder said. "We are taking our medications ... we've taken all the precautions.
"It's a small episode which is now past and so our main concern now is the match with Gabon, to qualify. We are totally focused on our African Cup."
Tunisia plays Niger in Group C's other match on Friday.