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First half goals from Fenerbahçe right-back Nabil Dirar and Juventus centre-back Medhi Benatia helped Morocco beat Ivory Coast 2-0 on Saturday in a highly-temperamental Group C final World Cup qualifier in Abidjan and seal one of Africa’s final two slots for next year’s World Cup in Russia.
Tunisia claimed the other spot despite being held to a goalless draw at home by Libya in Group A of the African qualifiers.
Nigeria were the first African nation to book a place in Russia after last month’s 1-0 win over Zambia in Uyo with Egypt and Senegal, who beat South Africa 2-0 in a replayed game in Polokwane on Friday, having also qualified.
Leaders Atlas Lions, managed by Herve Renard, who led the Ivoirians to the Africa Cup of Nations title two years ago, had nine points and needed just a draw to qualify for the Mundial, while second-place Elephants with eight points, needed a win.
However, it was the visitors, who sealed an emphatic win as Dirar grabbed the opener in the 25th minute with after his tricky cross beat Sylvain Gbohouo, in goal for the Ivoirians.
The more industrious Moroccans caused more problems for their hosts five minutes later when Benatia slotted home Mbark Boussoufa’s corner into the next to send the home fans into anguish, as the Lions sealed a first World Cup ticket since 1998.
Seydou Doumbia had the best chance to score for the Elephants in the second half after being put through by Crystal Palace striker Wilfried Zaha, but he placed his shot well over the bar unmarked.
The match witnessed several incidents involving Zaha, Doumbia, Serge Aurier against their opponents as tension heightened.
Morocco maintained their record of not conceding a single goal in the six games in CAF qualifying Group C. Gabon and Mali drew 0-0 in the other final Group C encounter.
In Group A, DR Congo, on 10 points, were still in with a chance to catch leaders Tunisians on 13 points, but despite a late 3-1 win over Guinea, it was too little too late.
Guinea’s Ousmane Sidibe headed into his own net from a set piece after the hour mark, but the West Africans equalised 10 minutes later through Keita Karamokoba.
Two goals in stoppage time, a Jonathan Bolingi penalty and a fine Neeskens Kebano strike, gave DR Congo their win, but it didn’t matter as Tunisia held on for the draw in the other game to win the group by a single point.
African champions Cameroon also secured a 2-2 draw away to Zambia in their inconsequential final Group B World Cup qualifier in Ndola thanks to a late goal from defender Yaya Banana.
Patson Daka put Zambia in front in the 26th minute but Andre Zambo Anguissa equalised from outside the box five minutes later.