Ivory Coast will not appear at a fourth successive World Cup after they were beaten 2-0 at home by Morocco in a Group C qualifier on Saturday evening.
The match at the Stade Felix Houpouet-Boigny in Abidjan saw the Atlas Lions secure a first World Cup appearance since 1998 thanks to goals from Nabil Dirar and Medhi Benatia.
After a patchy opening quarter hour, Ivory Coast created the first clear chance on 17 minutes when a ball over the top allowed Gervinho to spring the offside trap, but his attempted finish ended up in the stands behind the goal.
Yet Morocco, against the run of play, claimed the lead on 25 minutes: midfielder Nabil Dirar play an in-swinging cross from the right flank which beat the players in the middle but found the net just inside goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo’s right-hand post.
On the half hour mark the North Africans doubled their advantage, with captain Medhi Benatia getting ahead of marker Jean-Philippe Gbamin at a corner kick to half-volley home from close range.
The half time whistle saw the Atlas Lions 2-0 up and very much on course to secure a place at the 2018 tournament.
Morocco almost claimed a third goal early in the second stanza, with Mbark Boussoufa’s scuffed effort desperately cleared off his own line by defender Serge Aurier.
And the Tottenham Hotspur fullback missed a great chance to bring his side back into the game on 64 minutes, blazing a shot over the target when he had only the goalkeeper to beat - and teammate Seydou Doumbia in a better position.
The Elephants threw everything they had at Morocco in the last 20 minutes or so, but the fact that they hardly troubled the goalkeeper says everything for Morocco’s defensive stability and composure.
The Atlas Lions join Nigeria, Egypt, Senegal and Tunisia as the five African representatives at the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia.
Ivory Coast 0
Morocco (2) (Dirar 25’, Benatia 30’)
Ivory Coast: Sylvain Gbohouo, Serge Aurier, Simon Deli (Ghislain Konan 46’), Wilfried Kanon, Seko Fofana (Maxwell Cornet 62’), Jean-Philippe Gbamin, Franck Kessie, Wilfried Zaha, Max Gradel, Gervinho (Salomon Kalou 76’), Seydou Doumbia
Morocco: Mounir El Kajoui, Medhi Benatia, Hakim Ziyach (Sofyan Amrabat 82’), Romain Saiss, Mbark Boussoufa, Noureddine Amrabat, Karim El Ahmadi, Khalid Boutaib (Achraf Bencharki 75’), Achraf Hakimi, Younes Belhanda (Faycal Fajr 90+1’), Nabil Dirar