• Press review: Long-term absentees make triumphant returns

    (FIFA.com) THE DAY REPLAYED - A tense final day of the African qualifying competition for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ ended with Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia joining Egypt and Nigeria as the continent’s five qualifiers.

    While the last two world finals saw the same quintet of Algeria, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria represent Africa on both occasions, Russia 2018 will welcome back some long-term absentees. Egypt last appeared on the Word Cup stage at Italy 1990, Morocco at France 1998, Senegal at Korea/Japan 2002 and Tunisia at Germany 2006.

    The big match

    Côte d’Ivoire 0-2 Morocco

    There was a white-hot atmosphere at the Stade Felix Houphouet Boigny in Abidjan, where a capacity crowd turned up in hope of seeing the Elephants record the win they needed to book a fourth consecutive World Cup appearance. Coached by Herve Renard, the man who steered Côte d’Ivoire to the CAF Africa Cup of Nations title in 2015, the Lions of the Atlas were far from overawed, however.

    Though the Moroccans needed only a draw to progress, they managed even better than that. After soaking up some early pressure from an Ivorian side inspired by the hard-running Gervinho, the visitors took the lead on 25 minutes, when Nabil Dirar’s curling cross caught out Sylvain Gbohouo in the home goal and crept in at the far post. Five minutes later, the hosts found themselves 2-0 down when Mehdi Benatia drove the ball home from a corner. The north Africans then defended their lead stoutly to secure top spot in the group and a place in Russia.

    What they said

    “We didn’t have any intention of coming and putting 11 men behind the ball. The players were outstanding. They fought from start to finish and contested every ball, which says a lot for them when you look at the Côte d’Ivoire line-up. They stuck together and that made the difference.”

    Morocco coach Herve Renard

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