Morocco, Tunisia qualify for Russia 2018; Côte d’Ivoire out

Côte d’Ivoire have failed to qualify for next year’s competition after losing 2-0 to Morocco on Saturday in Abidjan. Morocco needed only a draw in their last group game to finish top of the table ahead of the Ivorians, who had to win at home to make a fourth straight appearance at the World Cup. The Ivorians have reached the finals of the competition on three occasions in 2006, 2010 and 2014.

After weathering an early storm, including a potential penalty call, Morocco scored two goals in the space of five minutes. Nabil Dirar opened the scoring for the visitors in the 25th minute with a delivery that bounced through the unorganised defence into the far corner of the net. Medhi Benatia doubled Morocco’s tally five minutes later when he confidently volleyed home a corner kick from close range.

Morocco topped the group on 12 points, four above the Ivorians. Gabon, who earlier drew 0-0 with Mali in Franceville, finished with seven and bottom-placed Mali five.

Morocco have now booked their spot in the World Cup for the first time since 1998 in France. It is another achievement for Morocco’s French coach Herve Renard, who famously won the Africa Cup of Nations with Côte d’Ivoire in 2015.

Meanwhile, Tunisia’s goalless draw against Libya on Friday proved enough to seal their World Cup spot from Group A. Tunisia will participate in their fifth World Cup, but first since qualifying for three consecutive tournaments from 1998-2006.

Morocco and Tunisia will join Nigeria, Egypt and Senegal as the African sides at next year’s World Cup in Russia.

Adira Kallo

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