Ivorians inch closer to World Cup

Source: BackpagePix
Source: BackpagePix

Ivory Coast rode their luck as they crept closer to a fourth consecutive World Cup appearance by drawing 0-0 away to Mali on Friday in a 2018 Africa zone qualifier.

In a scrappy game, Mali created most of the clear-cut chances and came closest to breaking the deadlock when an Adama Niane shot rattled the crossbar during the second half.

Several Ivorians were yellow carded for fouls and time wasting, including English Premier League defenders Eric Bailly of Manchester United and Serge Aurier of Tottenham Hotspur.

Ivory Coast lead Group C with eight points from five matches, two points more than Morocco, who host Gabon in Rabat on Saturday.

A victory for the Moroccans would lift them to the top of the table ahead of a final-round fixture in the Ivory Coast next month.

Only group winners in Africa qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Ivory Coast were among the African qualifiers for the 2006, 2010 and 2014 World Cups, but never progressed beyond the first round.

Morocco, who are guided by France-born former Ivory Coast coach Herve Renard, hope to reach the finals for the first time since 1998.

Another eight qualifiers are scheduled for Saturday with the possibilities that Nigeria and Tunisia could become the first African qualifiers.



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