- Nigeria increased their lead in Group B, while Algeria practically eliminated
- Morocco crushed Mali, and Côte d’Ivoire won comfortably in Gabon
- Tunisia emerged victorious from Group A clash with Congo DR
THE MATCHDAY REPLAYED – The third instalment of the third round of African qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, which was spread out over the past three days, did not result in any team booking their ticket for next year’s tournament, but it did enable certain nations to take huge steps towards that goal. In addition, it allowed some sides to keep their slim qualifying hopes alive, while others were forced to bid farewell to their dreams.
FIFA.com looks back at the ups and downs of the African Zone qualifiers.
Group A: Tunisia 2-1 Congo DR, Guinea 3-2 Libya
Group B: Nigeria 4-0 Cameroon, Zambia 3-1 Algeria
Group C: Morocco 6-0 Mali, Gabon 0-3 Côte d’Ivoire
Group D: Senegal 0-0 Burkina Faso, Cape Verde 2-1 South Africa
Group E: Uganda 1-0 Egypt, Ghana 1-1 Congo
Match of the weekend
Nigeria 4-0 Cameroon
Nigeria have not sealed their place at Russia 2018 just yet, but their resounding victory over Camerooncertainly brought that target within touching distance. Now five points clear of Zambia at the summit of Group A, the Super Eagles put in a stylish performance, scoring four times and dominating from start to finish.
Their big-name players, such as Jon Obi Mikel, Victor Moses and Kelechi Iheanacho, all took responsibility by finding the net, but it was Odion Ighalo who set the tone by breaking the deadlock on the half-hour mark. The* Indomitable Lions *will need to quickly regain the form that saw them land a fifth CAF Africa Cup of Nations crown in February if they wish to maintain their dwindling hopes of travelling to Russia in nine months’ time.
Group A: Tunisia earned three precious points at home to second-placed Congo DR(2-1), Ghilane Chalali notching the winner just after the break. Guinea finally picked up their first win of the campaign, Alkhaly Bangoura securing a last-gasp 3-2 success over Libya, after Naby Keita had opened the scoring in the seventh minute.
Group B: Nigeria’s win over Cameroon was not the only eyebrow-raising result in Group B: Algeria’s comprehensive defeat (1-3) by a supremely well-organised and disciplined Zambia side leaves Les Fennecs on the verge of elimination and forced to already turn their thoughts to Qatar 2022.
Group C: Moroccoshot back into contention by putting six unanswered goals past Mali – who finished the match with nine men – and briefly moving to the top of the section. The following day, however, Côte d’Ivoire, helped by sparkling performances from Gervinho and Seydou Doumbia, showed nerves of steel by eclipsing Gabon3-0 inLibreville and regaining leadership of the pool. The Panthers have still not managed to record a goal in the group, and the absence of star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has undoubtedly been a factor in this lack of scoring prowess.
Group D: Burkina Faso had obtained four points from their first two games, and they confirmed their solidity by obtaining a share of the spoils in Senegal(0-0) and retaining top spot in the group in the process. South Africaappeared to be on their way to clinching an away win over Cape Verde, who had not registered a point or a goal up to that point, but a brace by Nuno Rocha relaunched the island nation’s campaign. All four teams are now separated by just two points.
Group E: Misfiring Ghana were held to a surprise home draw by Congo; Thievy Bifouma scored after 18 minutes for the visitors, and the Black Stars only avoided defeat courtesy of a late Thomas Partey goal. Uganda pulled off the result of the weekend in Group E, seeing off Egypt1-0 and leapfrogging their illustrious opponents to unexpectedly claim first place.
The number1 – In beating Mali 6-0, Morocco pocketed three points for the first time in the group stage, having drawn their two previous matches. The Atlas Lions also finally brought an undesirable run to an end in Rabat: Hakim Ziyech’s penalty was their first goal in World Cup qualifying for 313 minutes. The North Africans then proceeded to get on the scoresheet five more times in the 70 minutes that followed.
Upcoming fixturesAll of the encounters played on Matchday 3 will be reversed on Matchday 4, which is scheduled for 4 and 5 September. Duels to look forward to include:
* Cameroon-Nigeria: Can the Indomitable Lions bounce back, or will the Nigerians do enough to bag a berth at Russia 2018?
* Congo DR-Tunisia: Will Les Léopards draw level with Tunisia at the top of the section, or will the Carthage Eagles take another significant step towards the World Cup?
* Egypt-Uganda: The Pharaohs have not appeared at the World Cup finals since 1990, while surprise package Uganda have never performed on football’s greatest stage. Can the Cranes pull off another shock and break Egyptian hearts?