King calls to congratulate World Cup-bound Morocco

Morocco's team players celebrate a goal at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny stadium in Abidjan on Saturday, November 11, 2017, during the FIFA World Cup 2018 Africa Group C qualifying football match between Ivory Coast and Morocco. ( AFP / ISSOUF SANOGO)
Updated 12 November 2017

King calls to congratulate World Cup-bound Morocco

JOHANNESBURG: Morocco and Tunisia have qualified for the World Cup, taking Africa’s last two places and doubling the Arab region’s involvement at football’s showpiece event in 2018.
They will join Nigeria, Egypt and Senegal as Africa’s five representatives at next year’s tournament and also mix it alongside Saudi Arabia and Egypt to give the Arab world four representatives at the tournament for the first time.
Morocco sealed its place by winning in Ivory Coast 2-0 in what was a straight shootout for the place from Group C, qualifying them for the first time since 1998. Tunisia secured the draw it needed, 0-0 at home against Libya, to qualify from Group A and edge out Congo to seal what will be their first appearance since 2006.
Morocco coach Herve Renard revealed after the match that Moroccan King Mohammed VI called to congratulate the team. “I thank His Majesty for calling me. It’s a huge honor,” said the Frenchman. “He wanted to talk to us to pay tribute to everyone. Tonight we are proud of the Moroccan shirt, proud that the Moroccan flag returns to the World Cup. This is the fifth qualification so Morocco is not a small (football) country.”
The qualification of Morocco and Tunisia signaled an apparent shift in African soccer, giving North Africa three teams at the World Cup and more than any other region for the first time since 1986. West Africa has dominated Africa’s contingent at the World Cup in recent years but some of its big names missed out this time: Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Ghana, all African champions multiple times, will not be in Russia.
For Morocco, Nabil Dirar and Medhi Benatia scored in the space of five minutes in the first half in Abidjan to help send the Moroccans to their first World Cup in 20 years and deny Ivory Coast a fourth straight appearance.
Morocco’s win in Abidjan gave coach Renard success over his former team and the country he led to the African Cup title in 2015. Morocco needed just a point from the game to qualify but made sure.
Dirar’s in-swinging cross beat everyone and found the corner of the net in the 25th minute. Benatia scored with a first-time shot from a corner five minutes later to seal the victory.
Ivory Coast was already in decline after being eliminated by Renard and Morocco in the group stage of this year’s African Cup, where the Ivorians were defending champions. The failure to reach the World Cup after being ever-present since 2006 will put pressure on coach Marc Wilmots.
Tunisia survived some nervous moments in Rades as Libya finished strongly. The Tunisians held on for the draw, though, and it turned out to be a precious point.
Starting the final game three points behind Tunisia, Congo beat Guinea 3-1 in a whirlwind finish, when Congo scored twice in injury time. Had Tunisia lost, the two teams would have finished level on points and goal difference and Congo would have taken the World Cup place for scoring more goals in the qualifying campaign.


Boult, Southee rattle Sri Lanka in second Test

Updated 23 August 2019

Boult, Southee rattle Sri Lanka in second Test

  • Weather permitting, extended playing time is planned for the day after only 36.3 overs were possible on Thursday due to rain in the Sri Lankan capital

COLOMBO: Trent Boult and Tim Southee led New Zealand’s charge against Sri Lanka on day two of the rain-hit second Test on Friday, with the host skipper Dimuth Karunaratne’s offering resistance with a half-century.
Boult took two early wickets in one over after Sri Lanka resumed the day on 85 for two at Colombo’s P. Sara Oval, where the start was delayed due to a wet outfield.
Sri Lanka were 144 for six at lunch with Dhananjaya de Silva, on 32, and Dilruwan Perera, on five, at the crease.
Southee, like Boult, also delivered a double-wicket maiden as the duo put on a superb display of seam bowling under overcast conditions.
Boult got overnight batsman Angelo Mathews caught behind for two to reach a landmark of 250 Test wickets — only the third Kiwi bowler to achieve the feat.
He trapped Kusal Perera lbw for nought after just three balls as Sri Lanka slipped to 93-4 and would have been in further trouble had Boult held on to a simple catch from de Silva off his own bowling a few overs later.
Karunaratne also got a lifeline on 61 when Kane Williamson could not grab a tough chance at short mid-wicket off Ajaz Patel.
But the left-hander, who completed his 23rd Test fifty after resuming the day on 49, soon fell, caught behind off Southee for 65.
Southee struck again in the same over to send Niroshan Dickwella trudging back to the pavilion for nought.
Perera then played out the rest of the session with de Silva.
Medium-pace bowler Colin de Grandhomme and spinner William Somerville took a wicket each on the opening day after Sri Lanka elected to bat first.
Weather permitting, extended playing time is planned for the day after only 36.3 overs were possible on Thursday due to rain in the Sri Lankan capital.