The third round of African World Cup qualifying continued this past weekend, with the 20 teams from the continent left with a chance of securing one of the five spots allocated to Africa in action across the continent.
Drawn into five groups of four teams each, the five winners of the groups after a round-robin format qualify for Russia 2018.
This is how the 10 African World Cup qualifying matches turned out for the participating nations looking to earn their ticket to Russia in two years’ time.
Group A rivals Libya and Tunisia met in Algiers on Friday, and the North African battle went in favour of the Carthage Eagles. A penalty from Sunderland player Wahbi Khazri was enough to give Tunisia all three points in a stubborn encounter that saw the Libyans complaining about the referee after the fact.
DR Congo travelled to Guinea on Sunday and managed to come from behind to secure a 2-1 win to go top of Group A at the Stade du 28 Septembre. Guinea opened the scoring with a Seydouba Soumah penalty in the 23rd minute, but Neeskens Kebano equalised 10 minutes into the second half. Two minutes later striker Yannick Bolasie made the most of his opportunity to secure the victory and maximum points from their first two group stage qualifiers.
The Chipolopolo returned home after securing a valuable away draw against the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon on Saturday. The Group B rivals shared the points at Stade Omnisport in Limbe. Collins Mbesuma scored for the away side in the 34th minute, but Cameroon managed to equalise through a penalty from Vincent Aboubakar in first-half stoppage time, and it ended 1-1.
The Super Eagles of Nigeria maintained their place at the top of of Group B with an impressive 3-1 victory over Algeria 3-1 at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo on Saturday. Chelsea players Victor Moses and John Mikel Obi scored the goals for Nigeria, with a brace for Moses adding to his captain’s goal. Algeria managed to pull a goal back in the second half through Nabil Bentaleb, but it would prove little more than a consolation strike.
Mali could only manage a goalless home draw against Gabon at the Stade du 26 Mars on Saturday night. The stalemate gave Mali their first point of the qualifying campaign, but the match was characterised by poor finishing from both teams. Cote D’Ivoire top Group C with four points from two games, followed by Gabon in second with two points, Morocco in third, also on two points, and Mali in last place with a single point.
A sterling defensive effort from the Atlas Lions of Morocco at home allowed the North Africans to emerge from the Group C encounter with a goalless draw against a determined Cote D’Ivoire outfit. The current African champions threw everything at the Moroccans, but their organisation and grit earned them a point against the Elephants.
South Africa stunned Senegal with a 2-1 home victory over the favoured Teranga Lions in Polokwane on Saturday. A controversial penalty from captain Thulani Hlatshwayo opened Bafana’s account, with Thulani Serero giving Shakes Mashaba’s team a two-goal cushion at half time. Cheikh N’Doye scored a consolation goal for the visiting West Africans, but they could not find an equaliser despite sustained pressure in the second half.
After South Africa got the better of Senegal, Group D became wide open when Burkina Faso negotiated a 2-0 victory over hosts Cape Verde. Goals from Banou Diawara and Prejuce Nakoulma in the first half allowed Paulo Duarte’s side to take top spot in Group D ahead of South Africa on goal difference.
The big Sunday match finished 2-0 in favour of Egypt against Ghana in Alexandria, allowing the Pharaohs to command Group E with two wins from two. The crunch match was hard-fought, but goals from Mohamed Salah and Abdallah Said at the Borg El Arab Stadium made sure of the victory and put Egypt one step closer to Russia 2018.
Saturday was another good day for the Uganda Cranes, who have been a force in African soccer of late, and this trend continued when they secured a 1-0 victory over visitors Congo in a Group E encounter that saw the East Africans temporarily earn top spot in the standings until Sunday. The home side took a 18th minute lead through Farouk Miya, whose low shot was enough to secure all of the spoils.