CASABLANCA – Ivory Coast qualified for a third successive Fifa World Cup on Saturday evening after drawing 1-1 away to Senegal in the second leg of their 2014 qualifying playoff at the Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca, Morocco.
Didier Drogba and co. won the two-legged tie 4-2 on aggregate and have joined Nigeria – 4-1 aggregate winners over Ethiopia – as one of the five sides that will represent the African continent in next year’s showpiece event.
Leading 3-1 from the first leg last month, the Elephants were made to sweat by the Teranga Lions, who scored via a second half penalty from Moussa Sow and pushed hard for the second goal that would have put them on the plane to Brazil courtesy of away goals.
Yet it wasn’t to be for Senegal, who due to a CAF ban on their home venue in Dakar – following riots during a 2013 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Ivory Coast – were forced to play the match on neutral territory.
And when Salomon Kalou scored an injury time equaliser to level the game at 1-1, Senegal’s hopes were well and truly destroyed.
The first half was a cagey affair for the most part, with Ivory Coast more than prepared to sit back and look to hit the Senegalese on the counter attack.
The ‘hosts’ enjoyed more of the ball and often got themselves into good attacking positions, but they were rarely able to cause any trouble for Elephants goalkeeper Boubacar Barry.
Their fleeting moments of threatening the away side’s goal were generally created at set pieces, but a lack of precision in their execution left the score line blank at the interval.
The Teranga Lions very nearly capitalised on a defensive slip from the Elephants early in the second half, but Barry made a point-blank block on Dame Ndoye to keep the scores level.
With just under 15 minutes to play, Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba was guilty of pulling down Sadio Mane and giving away a penalty. Substitute Moussa Sow coolly converted the spot kick to give Senegal genuine hope of turning the tie in their favour.
But that was at good as it got for Alain Giresse’s team, who were unable to breach he Elephants’ defence for a second time and were left to reflect on the defensive frailties from the first leg that cost them so dearly.
Kalou sprinted through in injury time to score on the counter attack and put some gloss on the score line for the Elephants. – SuperSport