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Group C decider pits the Elephants against Atlas Lions – 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers – Africa

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Group C decider pits the Elephants against Atlas Lions

Eric Bailly of Ivory Coast clears ball from Dieudonne Bezua Mbokani of DR Congo during the 2017 African Cup of Nations Finals Afcon football match between Ivory Coast and DR Congo at the Oyem Stadium in Gabon on 20 January 2017 ©Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

by
Graeme Jackson

Wednesday Nov 08, 2017. 17:30


The 2018 World Cup qualifying Group C decider sees Ivory Coast host Morocco at the Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny in Abidjan on Saturday evening at 19h30 CAT.

This meeting of the Elephants and Atlas Lions promises to be one of the best qualifying matches on show this weekend, and AfricanFootball.com will have LIVE coverage of the clash.

The odds are stacked in favour of Morocco, who hold a one-point lead at the top of the table and know that they need only avoid defeat in Abidjan to secure a fifth World Cup qualification, and their first since 1998.

Ivory Coast, meanwhile, must win the match to leapfrog to the top of the standings. Should they do so, it would see them secure a ticket to their fourth successive World Cup.

The match is given extra emotive value by the status of the teams’ coaches. Morocco’s Herve Renard will be facing the team he took to Africa Cup of Nations glory as recently as 2015, while Ivory Coast’s Marc Wilmots may very well see this game as one in which his job is one the line.

The Belgian has earned little affection from Elephants fans since taking charge earlier this year, yet if he can secure a place in Russia 2018 it would certainly raise his stock in the West African country and secure his position for the forseeable future.

Wilmots has called for unity from Ivorian fans ahead of the do-or-die clash, saying, “We will have a final in Abidjan, we must win against Morocco.”

Renard has been more nuanced in his pre-match talk, but has taken confidence from beating Ivory Coast at the AFCON earlier this year, as well as holding the Elephants to a goalless draw in the teams’ first Group C meeting in Marrakesh a year ago.

“We’re going to play our final game against Ivory Coast, and this game is going to be difficult,” the French tactician told beIN Sport

“We defeated Ivory Coast during the Africa Cup of Nations. We’ll have to do the same again.”

Renard added, “I think that we’ve made a lot of progress. But we have to be very efficient during those 90 minutes to seek this qualification that a whole nation is waiting for.”

The teams have met in 18 previous matches, according to FIFA statistics, with Ivory Coast claiming six wins compared to five for Morocco. The Atlas Lions beat the Elephants 1-0 when the pair met in the group stage of this year’s AFCON.

The other Group C match will see Gabon host Mali in Franceville on Saturday afternoon.

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Atlas Lions aim for home win in 2018 qualifiers – 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers – Africa

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Atlas Lions aim for home win in 2018 qualifiers

Nabil Dirar of Morocco evades tackle from Mahmoud Hassan Trezeguet of Egypt during the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations Finals football Quarter Final match between Egypt and Morocco at the Port Gentil Stadium in Gabon on 29 January 2017 ©Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

by
Graeme Jackson

Tuesday Aug 29, 2017. 17:30


Morocco will target a home win over Mali when the teams meet in a Group C 2018 World Cup qualifier at Stade Moulay Abdellah in Rabat on Friday, kick-off at 22h00 CAT.

Morocco have played to two draws in their campaign thus far, holding Gabon 0-0 away before playing out a stalemate at home to group leaders Ivory Coast. The North Africans are second on the standing on two points, two behind the Elephants.

Mali, meanwhile, are bottom of the standings on one point. They lost their opener 3-1 away to Ivory Coast and could only manage a goalless stalemate at home to Gabon in their second outing.

The Eagles will be desperate to pick up a positive result against the Atlas Lions and keep alive their hopes of reaching the World Cup finals for the first time. Yet coach Alain Giresse is wary of the threat posed by Morocco.

“[Morocco] is a good team, the players are experienced and have played for big clubs. They rely on a well-oiled collective and use a variable system,” the Mali coach told the press.

The Frenchman added, “We have to get back on our feet, because the two matches that are waiting for Mali are very important.

“We will take care not to make the same mistakes as the opening game against the Elephants.

“We will have to be supportive and very disciplined tactically because in Bouaké we played with three or four youngsters and it was very difficult.”

Giresse’s counterpart is compatriot Herve Renard, who has won a major battle in convincing experienced defender Mehdi Benatia to return to the national team set-up.

Renard, who won the Africa Cup of Nations with both Zambia and Ivory Coast, has also recalled Hakim Ziyech, handed maiden call-ups to Mohamed Ounajem, Amine Khammass and Soufiane Alakouch, as well as leaving out big names like Zouhair Feddal and Sofiane Boufal.

Morocco and Mali have not been regular combatants down the years, meeting in just 17 matches across all competitions according to FIFA’s statistics database.

The Atlas Lions have the better record, but only just: they have seven victories compared to five for the Eagles, while five matches have been drawn. The North Africans have managed an impressive 25 goals in that sequence, while conceding just 12.

The teams will be meeting in World Cup qualifiers for the first time. Their most recent match against each other was a friendly played at the Stade de Marrakech in Morocco on 6 March 2013. The Atlas Lions claimed a 2-1 win on home soil.

Cameroonian referee Sidi Alioum will take charge of the match in Rabat. The return game will be played at the Stade du 26 Mars in Bamako on September 5.

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