Sunday,17 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1369, (16-22 November 2017)
Sunday,17 February, 2019
Issue 1369, (16-22 November 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Four Arab states in Russia

Tunisia and Morocco joined Egypt and Saudi Arabia as the four Arab representatives at the 2018 World Cup, reports Marawan Zayed

Saudi Arabia (white) vs Japan

The 2018 World Cup will witness the highest participation of Arab countries for the first time at the final stage of the world’s most popular event.

Saudi Arabia became the first Arab country to make it to the finals of the World Cup almost two months before the end of the continental qualifications. Last month, Egypt joined the Asian Arab country to the World Cup, also before the conclusion of the African qualifications when it beat Congo in Alexandria.

This week, Morocco and Tunisia sealed their places in Russia with Morocco in particular being very impressive as they defeated the mighty Ivory Coast to book a return to the finals for the first time in two decades.

Tunisia (white) vs Libya

The Moroccan side needed just one point to finish top of the Group C standings ahead of the Ivoirians, who had to win to clinch a fourth successive World Cup finals appearance. However, after surviving early pressure, Morocco scored two goals in the space of five minutes to put themselves on their way to the finals, in which they last appeared in 1998, eight years after Egypt’s last appearance.

As for Tunisia, they secured a fifth appearance to the tournament by topping the table with 14 points, one more than the Democratic Republic of Congo who scored twice in stoppage time through Jonathan Bolingi and Neeskens Kebano to defeat Guinea 3-1 in Kinshasa. Tunisia’s last appearance was in 2006 after also taking part in 1998 and 2002 so they didn’t have to wait for as long as Egypt and Morocco.

Senegal and Nigeria were the other African teams to make the cut from Africa alongside Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco. So, three Arab African teams have qualified for the World Cup together for the first time ever, with Saudi Arabia also sealing their place to Russia earlier this month to make it a memorable edition for Arab teams.

Morocco (white) vs Cote D’Ivoir

Saudi Arabia will be making their fifth appearance like Tunisia after taking part in four consecutive editions 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2006. They secured their place following a 1-0 win against Japan in their last AFC Round 3 Group B match as they finished in second place in the group behind Japan with 19 points, but they secured their place in the finals thanks to goal difference ahead of Australia who also had 19 points. They owed it all to substitute Fahad Al-Muwallad who gave the upper hand for the home side at King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah and in front of more than 60,000 spectators.

The World Cup draw will take place in Moscow on 1 December with all 32 teams sending representatives to the ceremony

The writer is a freelance journalist.

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