Morocco qualifies for 2018 FIFA World Cup

RABAT – Morocco became the next African nation to qualify for the 2018 World Cup after they defeated Ivory Coast 2-0 in their final Group C clash.

The Atlas Lions have qualified for the World Cup finals for the first time since 1998.

Achraf Hakimi had the first real opportunity for the visitors in the sixth minute, but the Real Madrid defender’s shot from the edge of the box sailed over the bar.

The Elephants gained momentum around the 15th minute and Gervinho should have opened the scoring following his combination with Max Gradel inside the box but he fluffed his chance.

Nabil Dirar eventually opened the scoring for the Lions of the Atlas on 25 minutes with a long range effort that found the bottom corner, 0-1.

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.

The hosts were cut open with ease at the back and the more they held possession further up the field, the more vulnerable they were on counter-attacks.

Renard’s troops kept their discipline in the closing stages of the first half, although the Elephants did not pose serious threat and took the 2-0 lead into at the break.

The hosts nearly went 3-0 down two minutes after halftime with Serge Aurier clearing Mbark Boussoufa’s point-blank strike off the line following a scramble inside the box.

The visitors were dangerous on transitions and should have ended the match as a contest on the hour mark with Khalid Boutaib breaking through but his shot from the edge of the box sailed narrowly wide with goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo out of his area.

The Ivorians continued to pressurise the visitors with 10 minutes to play but they lacked the sense of urgency for a team that needed three goals in the remaining minutes to qualify.

Morocco ran down the clock with tactical substitutions in the closing minutes as Renard master-minded the downfall of his former employers, who he helped win the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.

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