Egypt and Saudi Arabia were joined by Morocco and Tunisia in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup to be played in Russia. It marks the first time four Arabic nations qualify for the same world cup event.
Nabil Dirar and Medhi Benatia were on the score-sheet for Morocco in their 2-0 victory over Ivory Coast to win the Group C. The Moroccan National team nicknamed the “Atlas Lions” will be competing in the World Cup tournament for the first time since 1998 after they finished 12 points. They hadn’t conceded a goal during the six matches they played during their qualifying rounds for the tournament.
The Morocco coach Herve Renard revealed that he received a call from the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI congratulating them.“I thank His Majesty for calling me. It’s a huge honour. 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.” Said the Frenchman.
However Tunisia could not win against their close neighbours Libya as they had to settle for a goal-less draw. That was just enough to see them through in their group just a point ahead of second place Congo Brazzaville. Tunisia who was unbeaten throughout the qualifying campaign collected 14 points to book their place in the 2018 World Cup. This would mark their first appearance in the World Cup since 2006.
Meanwhile Egypt’s coach Héctor Cúper had been taking some medication for his high blood pressure to deal with the stress before the commencement of his side’s game with The Democratic Republic of Congo began. Star player Mohamed Saleh made it 1-0 but Congo’s Arnold Bouka Moutou equalized and Egypt’s dreams of qualifying seemed to be in tatters at least for the ensuing five minutes into the stoppage time when Egypt was awarded a penalty.
Mohamed Saleh stepped up to take the spot kick that could make or break his country’s World Cup dreams. But the Liverpool man calmly shot the ball to the bottom right corner claiming a spot for the Pharaohs in next year’s world cup after a long absence going back to Italy 1990.
Saudi Arabia made it to the World Cup after a 1-0 win over Japan at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah. The Kingdom needed to win to qualify after Thailand was beaten by Australia 2-1 in Melbourne. Striker Fhad Al- Muwallad got a pass from the right and shot the ball in the top corner that had the home fans erupting in celebration.
Saudi Arabia finished the qualifiers with 19 points to book their place in the World Cup for the first time since 2006. Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum congratulated the Saudi national team for its victory.
Having four Arab nations qualifying for the World Cup 2018 in Russia portrays a significant improvement for North African and Middle Eastern football. The highest number of Arab country participation in the World Cup had been three-in 1986 and 1998 respectively.