Morocco Qualify For World Cup, Ivory Coast Miss Out

The qualification of Morocco and Tunisia signaled an apparent shift in African soccer, giving North Africa three teams at the World Cup and more than any other region for the first time since 1986.

Morocco's national team has secured its qualifications to the 2018 Russia World Cup following a heroic match in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire's economic capital.

Both nations join Nigeria, Egypt and Senegal, as Africa's representatives at the global finals next year.

Ivory Coast suffered a double blow as Medhi Benatia made it 2-0 for Herve Renard's troops in the 30th minute with a strike from the centre of the box that found the roof of the net.

West Africa has dominated Africa's contingent at the World Cup in recent years but some of its big names missed out this time: Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Ghana, all African champions multiple times, won't be in Russian Federation. Tunisia qualified for the World Cup after winning the group with 14 points.

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Needing only a draw to qualify for next year's Russian Federation finals, two first-half goals from Nibal Dirar and Juventus defender Mehdi Benatia ensured the Atlas Lions a World Cup spot.

Five minutes later, Mehdi Benatia scored the second goal after a corner kick by Mbraek Boussoufa. The failure to reach the World Cup after being ever-present since 2006 will put pressure on coach Marc Wilmots.

Tunisia emerged the leaders in Group A, surviving a resilient Libya that shared the spoils of the day with their hosts.

The "Atlas Lions" are going back to the tournament for the first time since 1998 after finishing with 12 points, having not conceded a goal during the six-match group campaign.

Meanwhile, in Group A, Tunisia played out a tense goalless draw with Libya to edge Congo DR to top spot by just one point.

  • Lawrence Cooper