Several African underdogs ignored the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking and held their own against more-fancied opposition as the African qualifiers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ entered the second round. Such lesser-known sides as Madagascar, Comoros, Swaziland and Chad achieved the biggest shocks.

Highlights
Black Stars bruised
When a team ranked 30th in the world and consisting of stars from the English Premier League, German Bundesliga and French Ligue 1 take on the 177th ranked team, the majority of whose players belong to clubs in the lower tiers of French football, most fans would expect the outcome to be a forgone conclusion. Not so though for Comoros, who already stunned Lesotho in the first round. Les Coelecantes took the game to Ghana's Black Stars in Mitsamiouli and secured a stunning goalless draw. The result might leave the islanders still waiting for their first World Cup victory, but they now have another surprise they can gain confidence from.

Senegalese shock
Comoros were not the only Indian Ocean island that impressed as Madagascar took on the 2002 World Cup quarter-finalists Senegal. The Barea were leading 2-0 through goals by Faneva Andriatsima and Njiva Rakotoharimalala, when the visitors realised they needed to up their game if they wanted to avoid going into Tuesday's return leg with a defeat. Although Mame Biram Diouf and Sadio Mane changed things around and ensured a 2-2 draw, it was a morale-boosting result for Madagascar.

Joy in Botswana
Another team that punched above its weight was Botswana, who stunned Mali with a 2-1 victory. Tapiwa Gadibolae and Joel Mogorosi gave the Zebras a two-goal lead by the 24th minute, giving the home side fans plenty to cheer about. Mali, who are ranked 42 places higher than the southern African country, pulled one back in the second half through Samba Sow to give them a better chance for the return leg.

Gabon keep their cool
After losing the first leg 1-0 in Maputo to Helder Pelembe's goal, Gabon roared back early in the second leg on Saturday night. Captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who missed the first game through injury, was back for the Panthers and the side responded in the second minute through Malick Evouna. The Al Ahly striker's goal was the only tally in the 90 minutes however, resulting in an even aggregate score, extra-time and ultimately penalties with the Gabonese winning the shootout 4-3 to keep their World Cup dreams alive.

Upcoming
Nigeria looking for goals
Following forward Emmanuel Emenike's retirement from international football, Sunday Oliseh said that no player was irreplaceable. Although the coach played with three strikers and brought on American-based Obafemi Martins and teenage sensation Kelechi Iheanacho in the second half, the Super Eagles failed to find a goal against Swaziland in the first leg in Lobamba. If they want to avoid an embarrassing exit, they will have to score in the replay.

New coach off to a good start
When Cameroon officials decided not to extend their contract with German coach Volker Finke, Alexandre Belinga was thrown in at the deep end. He successfully completed his first test as the Indomitable Lions won 3-0 in Niger to all but guarantee themselves a place in the group phase of the competition. Fans in Cameroon are now hoping that Belinga can bring that winning-feeling home for the return leg in Yaounde.

Chad sing Song's praises
Egypt's 1-0 defeat in Ndjamena was certainly an upset and an embarrassment, but if the Pharaohs want to prevent it from turning into a disaster, they will have to find the goals to ensure a two-goal victory against Les Sao, who are ranked 79 places behind the north Africans. Ezechiel Ndouassel scored the only goal of the match for Chad to give new coach Rigobert Song a winning start to his first coaching career.

Player to watch
As the second-ranked team on the continent, Algeria should have had a comfortable game in Dar es Salam against upstarts Tanzania. But it was not to be as Elias Maguri and Mbwana Samatta gave the Taifa Stars the lead. But two goals within the space of three minutes from Islam Slimani ensured the North Africans a face-saving draw. Algerian fans are now hoping the Sporting Lisbon striker can carry them through to the group phase.

The number
7 -
The number of games that home sides won in the first leg of qualifiers. 20 matches were played, Surprisingly visiting teams managed to go home with nine wins, while four matches were drawn.

What they said
“We are not going to sit back and wait for them to come at us because we will be inviting trouble. They are a good side going forward. We need to make sure that we are cautious – meaning do things at the right time, attack them but still maintain shape, have numbers when we defend and attack and not give them space because they can hurt us. We also need a goal to add to the three and seal the victory,” South African coach Shakes Mashaba, whose side have one leg firmly in the group phase after securing a 3-1 win in Angola in the first leg.

First leg results
Mozambique 1-0 Gabon
Sudan 0-1 Zambia
Burundi 2-3 DR Congo
Namibia 0-1 Guinea
Benin 2-1 Burkina Faso
Togo 0-1 Uganda
Morocco 2-0 Equatorial Guinea
Madagascar 2-2 Senegal
Comoros 0-0 Ghana
Kenya 1-0 Cape Verde
Libya 1-0 Rwanda
Angola 1-3 South Africa
Niger 0-3 Cameroon
Liberia 0-1 Côte d'Ivoire
Mauritania 1-2 Tunisia
Swaziland 0-0 Nigeria
Ethiopia 3-4 Congo
Tanzania 2-2 Algeria
Chad 1-0 Egypt
Botswana 2-1 Mali

Second Leg result
Gabon 1-0 Mozambique
Gabon advance 1-1 on aggregate, 4-3 on penalties a.e.t