Mon, Nov 13, 2017 - Page 10 News List

Defenders book Morocco’s place in World Cup finals

Reuters, ABIDJAN

People celebrate in Marrakesh, Morocco, yesterday following Morocco’s victory over the Ivory Coast in their World Cup qualifier.

Photo: AFP

Goals from defenders Nabil Dirar and Medhi Benatia handed Morocco a 2-0 away win over the Ivory Coast on Saturday in their last World Cup qualifier and booked a return to the finals for the first time in two decades.

Morocco needed only a draw from their final Group C game to finish top of the standings in the African preliminaries, ahead of the Ivorians, who had to win to clinch a fourth successive World Cup finals appearance.

However, after weathering an early storm, including a potential penalty call, Morocco scored two goals in the space of five minutes to put themselves on their way to the finals, where their last appearance was in France in 1998.

Tempers spilled over as the two sides exchanged wild tackles and punches in the closing stages and Ivorian fans pelted the pitch with objects.

Morocco completed the campaign without conceding a goal, finishing on 12 points, four ahead of the Ivorians. Gabon had seven and bottom-placed Mali five.

Meanwhile, Tunisia on Saturday booked their place in next year’s finals after securing a point from a goalless draw at home against neighbors Libya.

Tunisia finished with 14 points in Group A of the African preliminaries, one ahead of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who fell short despite a 3-1 win over Guinea in Kinshasa.

Unbeaten Tunisia, who have been to four finals and were the first African nation to win a game at the finals in 1978, were denied a fifth win in six group matches as Libya’s goalkeeper Mohamed Nashnush made a number of key saves.

Libya avoided last place in the group with the draw as they advanced to four points with Guinea staying on three.

Libya had been forced to play all of their home games at neutral venues, including Tunisia, because of a FIFA ban on internationals in the nation, where the security situation is judged unsafe for visiting teams.

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