The Financial Express

Ireland, Denmark’s WC spot hangs on knife-edge

Morocco, Tunisia final teams to qualify from Africa

| Updated: November 13, 2017 12:02:09

Ireland, Denmark’s WC spot hangs on knife-edge

Republic of Ireland held Denmark to a scoreless draw in the first leg of their World Cup playoff in Copenhagen on Saturday night.

The Irish defended deeply from 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, Irish goalkeeper Darren Randolph pulled off a string of fine first-half saves, reports Sydney Morning Herald.

He 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.

The second leg is in Dublin on Tuesday, when Denmark will look to clinch a place in a major tournament for the first time since 2012.

Ireland last played at a World Cup in 2002 and are featuring in a ninth playoff for a major tournament.

Meanwhile, Morocco and Tunisia became the final African nations to qualify for the 2018 World Cup as both countries ended long spells away from the finals.

A 2-0 win at the Ivory Coast, who needed a victory of their own to progress, ended a 20-year qualifying drought for Morocco who last made the finals in 1998.

Tunisia's absence has not been as long but they will celebrate a first appearance in 12 years thanks to a goalless draw at home to Libya.

Nigeria, Senegal and Egypt had previously sealed their spots in Russia next year.

Morocco travelled to Abidjan leading Ivory Coast by a point in Group C and needing only a draw in the last match day.

They endured a scare when Gervinho missed a good chance for the hosts but Nabil Dirar's cross evaded keeper Sylvain Gbohouo in the 25th minute to put the guests in front.

When captain Medhi Benatia swept home a corner just five minutes later, Ivory Coast were left facing a first missed finals since 2002.

Morocco will be making their fifth appearance.

Gabon and Mali completed their campaigns with a goalless draw in the other group game.

Group A leaders Tunisia welcomed Libya to Rades, a short distance from capital Tunis, knowing a loss could see them miss out if second-placed DR Congo beat Guinea elsewhere.

Tunisia dominated the first half without finding the breakthrough to ease their nerves and their anxiety would have increased with the news an Ousmane Sidibe own goal had put DR Congo ahead in Kinshasa.

Guinea promptly equalised through Keita Junior and though Jonathan Bolingi, with a penalty, and Neeskens Kebano scored in injury time to give DR Congo a 3-1 win, it was not enough as Tunisia held on.

Tunisia finished a point clear of DR Congo, who were seeking a first trip to the finals since 1974 when they played as Zaire, to achieve their own fifth World Cup qualification.

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