Morocco, Tunisia grab last CAF World Cup spots


Morocco has qualified for its first World Cup since 1998 with a resounding 2-0 defeat of Cote d’Ivoire.

The visitors in Abidjan came into the match a point ahead of the hosts, meaning they needed just a draw to secure qualification, but instead they left no doubt. Despite missing Manchester United defender Eric Bailly due to yellow card suspension, Morocco used a pair of first-half goals to advance.

Both first-half goals came in quick succession. The first came on 25 minutes in spectacular fashion, as Fenerbahce winger Nabil Dirar sent in what appeared to be a cross into the area for Khalid Boutaib, but as Boutaib whiffed on his attempt at a header and left Ivory Coast goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo remained indecisive, Dirar’s ball tucked inside the far post for the opening goal.

Just five minutes later, Gbohouo’s error on a corner led to Morocco’s second. As Mbark Boussoufa sent in a pinpoint delivery, Gbohouo attempted to charge down the corner to collect. Before the ball arrived, the goalkeeper inexplicably bailed out of his charge and attempted to retreat to his net. That left Juventus defender Medhi Benatia all alone to whack the ball into the back of the net.

Tunisia also qualified, albeit less gracefully. Coming into the final matchday with a three-point lead over Group A rivals DR Congo, the Tunisians drew 0-0 with Libya to earn the necessary point required. It was nervy down the stretch, as DR Congo was leading Guinea at both 1-0 and then 2-1 to put pressure on, but Tunisia held on for qualification. Congo won 3-1 but it was in vain.