ABIDJAN, Nov 11 (Reuters) - Goals from defenders Nabil Dirar and Medhi Benatia handed Morocco a 2-0 away win over the Ivory Coast on Saturday in their last World Cup qualifier and booked a return to the finals for the first time in two decades.
Morocco needed only a draw in their last group game to finish top of the Group C standings in the African preliminaries, ahead of the Ivorians, who had to win to clinch a fourth successive World Cup finals appearance.
But after weathering an early storm, including a potential penalty call, 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, in France.
Morocco completed the campaign without conceding a goal, finishing on 12 points, four ahead of the Ivorians. Gabon had seven and bottom-placed Mali five. (Reporting by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Neville Dalton)