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Rediff.com  » Sports » FIFA World Cup qualifiers: Goalless draw secures Tunisia finals berth

FIFA World Cup qualifiers: Goalless draw secures Tunisia finals berth

November 12, 2017 17:25 IST

Images from the FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifiers played across the globe on Saturday

Tunisia fans celebrate after their team held Libya to a goalless draw to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup on Saturday

IMAGE: Tunisia fans celebrate after their team held Libya to a goalless draw to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup on Saturday. Photograph: Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters

Tunisia booked their place in next year's World Cup finals after securing a point from a goalless draw at home against neighbours Libya on Saturday.

Tunisia finished on 14 points in Group A of the African preliminaries, one ahead of the Democratic Republic of Congo, who fell short despite a 3-1 win over Guinea in Kinshasa at the same time.

 

Unbeaten Tunisia, who have been to four previous World Cup finals and were the first African country to win a game at the finals in 1978, were denied a fifth win in six group matches as Libya’s goalkeeper Mohamed Nashnush made a number of key saves.

Diving saves kept Youssef Msakni, Anice Badri and Ghilane Chaalani from scoring as Nashnush proved a one-man roadblock.

Tunisia threw everything into attacking in the closing stages to try and force a win in front of their home fans.

Libya avoided last place in the group with the draw as they advanced to four points with Guinea staying on three.

Libya had been forced to play all of their home games at neutral venues, including Tunisia, because of a FIFA ban on internationals in the country, where the security situation is judged unsafe for visiting teams.

Defenders book Morocco's place at World Cup

Goals from defenders Nabil Dirar and Medhi Benatia handed Morocco a 2-0 away win over the Ivory Coast on Saturday in their last World Cup qualifier and booked a return to the finals for the first time in two decades.

Morocco needed only a draw from their final Group C game to finish top of the standings in the African preliminaries, ahead of the Ivorians, who had to win to clinch a fourth successive World Cup finals appearance.

But after weathering an early storm, including a potential penalty call, Morocco scored two goals in the space of five minutes to put themselves on their way to the finals, where their last appearance was in France in 1998.

Dirar’s cross from the right evaded both a diving Khalid Boutaib and the Ivorian goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo to give Morocco a 25th-minute lead.

The goalkeeper was almost beaten again four minutes later when an awkward free kick from Hakim Ziyech took him by surprise at the near post.

But from the resultant corner, the home defence were caught napping and central defender Benatia was able to calmly stick out his foot and guide the ball into the net to make it 2-0.

Morocco could have been 3-0 up just seconds into the second half when Gbohouo made a hash of a cross, allowing the ball to fall to Mbark Boussoufa, whose goalbound effort was cleared off the line by Serge Aurier.

The Ivorians might have taken the lead when captain Gervinho missed an early chance and then looked unlucky not to be awarded a penalty when Romain Saiss pulled back Wilfried Zaha.

Instead the referee gave a free kick on the edge of the box which Max Gradel hit straight into the wall.

Aurier might have given the hosts a chance to launch a fight back in the final 20 minutes, but he blasted the ball wildly over the bar with the goal at his mercy.

Tempers spilled over as the two sides exchanged wild tackles and punches in the closing stages and Ivorian fans pelted the pitch with objects as their frustration boiled over.

Morocco completed the campaign without conceding a goal, finishing on 12 points, four ahead of the Ivorians. Gabon had seven and bottom-placed Mali five.

New Zealand and Peru battle to 0-0 draw in playoff

New Zealand's goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic stops the ball as teammate Winston Reid pushes away Peru's Jefferson Farfan during their 2018 World Cup Qualifying Playoffs at Westpac Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand, on Saturday

IMAGE: New Zealand's goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic stops the ball as teammate Winston Reid pushes away Peru's Jefferson Farfan during their 2018 World Cup Qualifying Playoffs at Westpac Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand, on Saturday. Photograph: Anthony Phelps/Reuters

New Zealand weathered a lack of possession and territory to hold Peru to a 0-0 draw in the first leg of their World Cup playoff at Wellington Regional Stadium on Saturday.

The South Americans, ranked 10th in the world and heavily favoured to advance to next year's finals in Russia, had only two real chances to score a crucial away goal as home captain Winston Reid marshalled the All Whites' defence with aplomb.

New Zealand goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic made a goal-line save after a mixup in defence and then tipped over a header from Aldo Corzo in the second half as the home team held their shape in the intercontinental playoff.

All Whites midfielder Ryan Thomas had arguably the best chance but his 85th-minute shot flashed centimetres wide of the right-hand post and the sides head to Lima dead-locked for the second leg on Wednesday.

"It is a really strong result for us, big result and we are pleased with where we are at," All Whites coach Anthony Hudson told reporters.

"But our feet are right on the ground.

"We haven't achieved anything yet. We still want to get to Russia. All we have to do is score one goal and that puts added pressure on them.

"We are very confident we can go there and score."

Burnley striker Chris Wood started on the New Zealand bench after coming into the camp with a hamstring injury but was subbed on with 16 minutes left as the All Whites looked for a goal.

The Peruvians, under immense pressure to qualify for a first World Cup since 1982, dominated early, with midfielder Christian Cueva and forward Jefferson Farfan causing problems for the hosts' defence.

Despite their superior possession, they had only one genuine chance in the first half when Marinovic pawed the ball away centimetres from the line after a defensive mix-up with Reid.

The Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper was also called into action in the 63rd minute when he pushed a powerful Corzo header from a corner over the bar.

Wood forced the only real save by Pedro Gallese with his first touch before Thomas had his chance to send the crowd of 37,034 into delirium when a loose ball fell to him.

His shot flashed just wide.

"We deserved a little bit more," Peru coach Ricardo Gaerca told reporters through an interpreter.

"We had control of the game but couldn't score.

"The All Whites are very tough. They have a very good organisation, but we will improve. I know we can play better."

Randolph frustrates Denmark as Ireland grab goalless draw

Denmark's Yussuf Yurary Poulsen and Ireland's Stephen Ward in an aerial duel as they vie for possession at Telia Parken in Copenhagen in Denmark on Saturday

IMAGE: Denmark's Yussuf Yurary Poulsen and Ireland's Stephen Ward in an aerial duel as they vie for possession at Telia Parken in Copenhagen in Denmark on Saturday. Photograph: Lars Moeller/Scanpix Denmark/via Reuters

Goalkeeper Darren Randolph pulled off a string of fine first-half saves as Ireland held Denmark to a scoreless draw in the first leg of their World Cup playoff on Saturday, with the two sides due to meet again in Dublin on Tuesday.

The Irish defended deeply form the first whistle, denying playmaker Christian Eriksen space, but the Danes still managed to fashion half a dozen scoring chances in a goalless first half.

With his side barely venturing forward in attack, Randolph was called into action early, parrying a stinging volley from Jens Stryger Larsen and smothering an attempt from Andreas Cornelius to hammer home the rebound.

Eriksen and Pione Sisto also went close for Denmark in quick succession, and Randolph tipped over a late header from Yussuf Poulsen to ensure his side escaped from the Danish capital with a draw.

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