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
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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.


Saudi Arabia enjoy more golden success at Special Olympics

Updated 26 min 33 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia enjoy more golden success at Special Olympics

  • Kingdom's athletes claim three golds, one silver and three bronzes on day four in Abu Dhabi.
  • Saudi Arabia medal tally now up to an impressive 25.

LONDON: Saudi Arabia enjoyed another good day at the Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi winning three golds, one silver and three bronzes to take their medal tally to an impressive 25 after four days.
Abdulaziz Alharthi got the day off to a great start in the pool, the 17-year-old from Jeddah picking up gold in the men’s 25m freestyle.
That was then followed up with the second gold of the day as Mohammed Alolayan powered home in the 5,000m. It was his second medal of the Games after he took home a bronze in the triathlon.
Moayed Aldarwish completed the hat-trick of golds coming home first in the 400m.


That was not the end of the success for the Kingdom as Fares Almateq and Naif Alshammari won silver in the men’s doubles table tennis. This was Fares’ second win of the week, having impressively won gold in the men’s singles event earlier.
Heba Shawli then became another multiple-medal winner when she took home the bronze in the softball throw event — she having won gold in the 25m run event.
Faisal Algosaibi and Faris Khouj, also part of the 4x100m freestyle relay team, each won bronze in their division of the 25m freestyle swimming.


Other winners of multiple medals include Hassan Alhadhariti, who won three golds and one silver in powerlifting; Sara Felemban and Jana Albeshri, who both won silver in bocce women’s singles and women’s team events, and Shahad Sunbul, who won silver in the bocce women’s team event and bronze in the bocce women’s singles event.