Algeria, Burundi, Cameroon, Gambia, Kenya, Libya, Malawi, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Tanzania all had victory in common on Matchday 5 of African Zone qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. Their rewards, however, were different on a thrilling day across the host continent.
For Cameroon, desperate to erase the heartache of failing to make Germany 2006, the prize was securing a first-place finish in Group A and moving into the last 20. The Indomitable Lions roared from behind to edge Cape Verde Islands in their top-of-the-table duel. The Blue Sharks went ahead six minutes before the interval, Lito their marksman, but second-half goals from Achille Emana and Alain Nkong earned the visitors a win that took them four points clear of their opponents with one round to play.
The section's other contest, between Mauritius and Tanzania, was purely about pride, and that was enough to encourage an enchanting first half at the King George V stadium in Curepipe. It produced five goals, all of them in a frenetic 22-minute period and four of them in favour of the Taifa Stars.
Shadrack Nsajigwa opened the scoring on 12 minutes, before Wesley Marquette immediately pulled Mauritius level. Nizzar Khalfan restored Tanzania's advantage, and then explosive forward Jerson Tegete scored twice to put his side in the comfort zone. The second half was not short on chances, but it was curiously void of goals. The 4-1 success moved Tanzania on to five points from as many matches, four clear of their opponents, who are now certain to finish at the foot of the pool.
Nigeria, the only side safely through before the action began, did not take their foot off the pedal. Although South Africa asked a lot of questions of their guests in Port Elizabeth, the Super Eagles defended resolutely en route to their fifth clean sheet in as many games, and maintained one of only two 100 per cent records in the CAF preliminary competition thanks to a fine goal from Ikechukwu Uche. The Bafana Bafana, by contrast, suffered the ignominy of missing out of a berth at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations 2010.
Sierra Leone moved three points clear of South Africa and into the runners-up spot in Group 4. Kewullay Conteh and Sheriff Suma established a two-goal cushion for the hosts, before Juvenal Edjogo grabbed a last-gasp consolation for Equatorial Guinea, whose qualification chances were ended in Freetown.
Tunisia, meanwhile, remain three points adrift of Burkina Faso after the Group 9 leaders held their North African visitors to a 0-0 draw in Ouagadougou. Four points further back in third are Burundi, this after a 2-1 victory away to Seychelles secured by goals either side of half-time from Henry Mbazumutima and Claude Nahimana.
Group 6 remains wide open going into the concluding matchday after Senegal, revelations of Korea/Japan 2002, lost 3-2 in Algeria and Gambia beat Liberia 3-0 at home. Goals from Yacine Bezzaz, Rafik Saifi and Anthar Yahia proved enough for the Desert Foxes to replace their opponents atop of the section.
Njogu Demba, who stars for Brann in Norway, scored twice to inspire his country to victory over Liberia, now out of the fight to advance. Algeria have nine points, one more than both Gambia and Senegal.
Kenya went three points clear of Guinea, who play in Zimbabwe tomorrow, at the Group 2 summit courtesy of a 1-0 reverse of tailenders Namibia.
Libya also took a three-point lead in their pool, beating Ghana 1-0 in Tripoli to unseat them in Group 5. Ahmed Osman struck the decisive goal six minutes from time. Gabon, now six points off the pace, will have the opportunity to make headway when they face a Lesotho outfit still seeking their first points.
Chad, meanwhile, boosted their qualification hopes at the expense of Sudan, winning 2-1 thanks to goals from Marius Mbaiam and Syriakata Hassan.
Malawi kicked off the round on Friday evening with a comprehensive 3-0 win in Djibouti, goals from Chiukepo Msowoya, Moses Chavula and Nyondo moving the Flames level on points with both Congo DR and Egypt, who meet on Sunday, in Group 12.
African Zone Qualifying, Matchday 5 results
Cape Verde Islands 1-2 Cameroon
Gambia 3-0 Liberia
Kenya 1-0 Namibia
Mauritius 1-4 Tanzania
Seychelles 1-2 Burundi
Sierra Leone 2-1 Equatorial Guinea
South Africa 0-1 Nigeria
Burkina Faso 0-0 Tunisia
Sudan 1-2 Chad