Morocco Beat Ivory Coast To Qualify For World Cup
Morocco ended their two-decade wait for a World Cup ticket by beating Ivory Coast 2-0 in Abidjan on Saturday to secure top spot in Group C.
The Atlas Lions just needed to avoid defeat in order to book their place in Russia, but took all three points after Nabil Dirar and Medhi Benatia struck twice in the space of five first-half minutes to heap further misery on under-pressure Elephants coach Marc Wilmots.
The result took them up to 12 points, four clear of the Ivorians in second place, confirming their return to the World Cup for the first time since 1998, when they were eliminated in the group stage.
Gabon and Mali finish third and fourth in Group C – on six and four points respectively – after playing out a 0-0 draw in Franceville earlier on Saturday.
Ivory Coast have struggled for consistency during the qualifying campaign, and have wholly failed to shake off the malaise that followed their dismal Nations Cup title defence in Gabon earlier this year.
They were nervy from the off in Saturday’s decisive clash, where they knew that only a win against former coach Herve Renard – the man who masterminded their AFCON success in 2015 – would be enough to pip the Atlas Lions into top spot.
Any hopes they had of overhauling the North Africans were all but extinguished in five minutes of first-half madness from goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo, who struggled behind an unfamiliar defensive pairing of Simon Deli and Jean-Philippe Gbamin.