• WC 2018 Qualifiers: A look at Cote d’Ivoire, Morocco World Cup chances

    Cote d’Ivoire will compete with Morocco for one of the three remaining tickets to Russia World Cup from Africa in a titanic return match expected to shake Abidjan with the aftershock reaching Rabat.

    Morocco have already touched down in the Cote d’Ivoire’s capital ahead of the Saturday’s group “C” tie whose first leg ended in a barren draw in Marrakech a year ago.

    A point for the Atlas Lions, who lead the group on nine points, will be enough to see them through for a fifth appearance since France 1998, while the hosts on eight points, will need a win for a third straight bite at the cherry.

    Other members of the group Mali and Gabon have given way.

    Traditionally this is a scoring match with only two barren draws in 18 previous fixtures.

    Five 1-0 score line have been witnessed with the rest registering over two goals per match.

    Overall, Cote d’Ivoire boast six wins against Morocco’s five with seven draws recorded.

    History aside, Cote d’Ivoire are known to be relentless before home support and seldom let an opportunity slip away.

    However, this cannot be said of the current squad that has proved unpredictable as Osasu Obayiuwana, an African football journalist puts it.

    “Normally, I would say that if qualification is in the hands of the Ivoirians, they will get it,”

    “But this team is not one the Ivorian people can trust to deliver, which is what makes this match interesting.”

    The Elephants were poised to run away with this group earlier but an away loss to Gabon and a barren draw at home against a youthful Mali in the last two rounds rocked their ship allowing Morocco to grab the steering wheel.

    Belgian manager Marc Wilmots, who took over from Frenchman Dussuyer in March after an underwhelming AFCON 2017 outing, has also left more questions than answers during his short stint.

    In eight matches in charge of the Elephants, he has only managed two wins; 2-0 against Russia in a friendly and 3-0 versus Gabon in the World Cup qualifiers.

    Morocco on the other hand held Mali away before winning the return leg 3-0 in the previous two rounds of the qualifiers.

    Motivation to break a two-decade wait to return to the World Cup will be their main driving force.

    “Motivation is much more on the Morocco side,” Dr. Hosam Hassan, a medical doctor and North African football expert opines.

    Nigeria and Egypt have already sailed through to Russia from the CAF region with three more slots expected to be filled starting 10th Friday.


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