Cameroon, Tunisia, Algeria, Nigeria all progress to play-offs

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Cameroon, Tunisia, Algeria and Nigeria clinched the final places in the African play-offs for the 2022 World Cup.

Cameroon edged past Ivory Coast 1-0 in the match-of-the-day while Tunisia eased to a 3-1 win over Zambia to seal top spots in their respective groups.

Earlier on Tuesday Algeria and Nigeria were both held to draws by their closest rivals but still progressed to next year’s final qualifiers.

Algeria twice led against Burkina Faso but drew 2-2, while the Super Eagles won Group C despite being held 1-1 by Cape Verde in Lagos.

Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ghana, Mali, Morocco and Senegal have already reached the play-offs, which will take place next March and decide the continent’s five representatives in Qatar.

Living up to the hype

The much anticipated Group D clash between Cameroon and visiting Ivory Coast did not disappoint in what was one of the best games of the African qualifiers.

The hosts took the lead in the 22nd minute through Lyon’s Karl Toko Ekambi as his shot looked to take a slight deflection past Sylvain Gbohouo in the Ivorian goal.

Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana proved his value in just his second game since coming back from a drugs ban by pulling of some good saves.

His Ajax club-mate Sebastien Haller did manage to beat Onana only for the ball to hit the bar as the Cameroon held on for the win and stayed on track to play at their eighth World Cup finals.

In the other match in the group a second-half own goal from Malawi captain Limbikani Mzava gave Mozambique their first win of the campaign.

The results means Cameroon win the group with 15 points, just two ahead of Ivory Coast as Mozambique finished third on four points, one more than the Flames.

Tunisia ease to victory

Tunisia and Al Ahly's Ali Maaloul
Al Ahly’s Ali Maaloul scored Tunisia’s third goal in a 3-1 win over Zambia

In Group B Tunisia secured a 3-1 win at home over Zambia which was enough for them to progress to the play-offs.

Aissa Laidouni, who plays in Hungary, opened the scoring after 18 minutes. That lead should have been extended soon after but Whabi Khazri had a penalty saved, after he had been fouled in the area.

Nottingham Forest’s Mohamed Drager did double the lead in the 31st minute and Ali Maaloul added a third before the break.

With 10 minutes left to play Rangers striker Fashion Sakala, who scored a hat-trick against Mauritania on Saturday, pulled one back for Zambia as he followed up on his own penalty.

In the other game in the pool Equatorial Guinea had needed win coupled with a loss for Tunisia to have any chance of making the play-offs, in the end they could only manage a 1-1 draw in Mauritania.

Greece-based captain Aboubakar Kamara gave Mauritania the lead midway through the first half before Saul Coco, who plays for Las Palmas in Spain equalised on the hour mark.

The results see Tunisia top the group with 13 points, two ahead of Equatorial Guinea in second, with Zambia in third on seven and Mauritania bottom.

Relief for Algeria and Nigeria

Riyad Mahrez in action for Algeria
Manchester City forward Riyad Mahrez netted for Algeria in their 2-2 draw against Burkina Faso

Continental champions Algeria were pushed all the way by Burkina Faso, who needed victory in Blida to keep their hopes of a first-ever World Cup appearance alive.

Algeria took the lead midway through the first half when Manchester City forward Riyad Mahrez converted a cutback from Youcef Belaili, but the Stallions equalised eight minutes before the break through Zakaria Sanogo, who chipped the ball over Rais M’Bolhi.

Half-time substitute Sofiane Feghouli restored the Desert Foxes’ lead, converting another pull-back by Belaili in the 68th minute, but the Burkinabe got a second equaliser through Issoufou Dayo’s penalty with six minutes left to set up a nervous finale to the Group A clash.

However, Djamel Belmadi’s men held on to extend their unbeaten run to 33 matches – four short of Italy’s world record of 37 set earlier this year.

Similarly, Nigeria had a two-point lead over Cape Verde going into their showdown but Gernot Rohr’s side scraped into the play-off stage.

The Super Eagles made the perfect start as in-form Napoli striker Victor Osimhen controlled a cross from Moses Simon and slotted home in the opening minute, but the islanders hit back four minutes later when defender Stopira headed in a corner kick.

Cape Verde keeper Vozinha made several saves in the first half to deny the hosts and the Blue Sharks almost pulled off an upset – with Nigeria defender Chidozie Awaziem making a crucial late block.

In the other match in Group C, Liberia beat Central African Republic 3-1.

Marcus Macauley and Peter Wilson gave Liberia a 2-0 lead after eight minutes and, after Isaac Ngoma pulled one back on 61 minutes, Wilson restored the Lone Stars’ two-goal advantage 12 minutes later.

Six from six for Morocco

Morocco and Ferencvaros' Ryan Mmaee
Morocco’s Ryan Mmaee plays his club football alongside his brother Samy at Hungarian side Ferencvaros

It was a perfect campaign for Morocco as they made it six wins out of six as they beat Guinea 3-0 in Casablanca.

After scoring twice in Friday’s win over Sudan Ryan Mmaee was on target again for Morocco with another brace, including one from the penalty spot. Ayoub El Kaabi added the third on 60 minutes.

As well as earning a maximum 18 points Morocco also scored 20 goals and conceded just once.

Earlier on Tuesday, already-qualified Egypt rounded off their campaign with a 2-1 win against Gabon in Alexandria to finish unbeaten in Group F.

Al Ahly midfielder Mohamed Magdy put the Pharaohs ahead from the penalty spot in the fourth minute after Ahmed Yasser Rayyan was clipped by Denis Bouanga.

Clermont forward Jim Allevinah scrambled in a cross to equalise nine minutes after the restart but Gabon defender Johann Obiang deflected a through ball past his own keeper with 15 minutes remaining, and his own goal proved to be the winner.

Egypt coach Carlos Quieroz
Carlos Quieroz is looking to lead Egypt to consecutive World Cup appearances

The visitors finished with 10 men as Bouanga was sent off late on for a kick out at Mohamed Hamdy – his second bookable offence – giving Carlos Quieroz’s Egypt a fourth win in six matches.

Elsewhere Libya finished behind Gabon on goal difference following a 1-1 draw with Angola.

Sanad Al Warfali’s penalty gave the north Africans the lead four minutes into the second half after Yousef Karah was bundled over, but Angola striker Zini fired in a loose ball from seven yards out to net the leveller in Benghazi in the 81st minute.

Source: BBC