Nigeria qualify, Elephants in peril
Nigeria the first African country to reach Russia 2018
Tunisia, Senegal and Egypt well placed
Côte d'Ivoire and Morocco poised for make-or-break showdown
THE MATCHDAY REPLAYED – Nigeria became the first African country to book their ticket to the next FIFA World Cup™, while Tunisia also took a big step towards Russia 2018, as did Senegal, who have a game in hand on their closest pursuers. Côte d'Ivoire, on the other hand, were overtaken by Morocco and the two will now lock horns with qualification on the line on the final matchday, whereas Egypt can qualify if they overcome Congo later today.
Match of the weekend *Morocco 3-0 Gabon * The Moroccans capitalised on Côte d'Ivoire's Friday-night stumble in Mali in style, easing past Gabon 3-0 to move into top spot in Group C. Khalid Boutaib was the star of the show, hitting a perfect hat-trick – his first goal was a glancing header, his second a right-footed volley and his third an emphatic left-footed finish – to fire his country to victory.
The Atlas Lions are now in pole position and know that a draw in their final game – a potentially explosive showdown away to the Elephants on 6 November – would be enough to take them through.
Elsewhere Group A: Tunisia could have qualified courtesy of their 4-1 romp away in Guinea had Congo DR not kept within striking distance by triumphing 2-1 in Libya. Still, the Eagles of Carthage remain very much in the driving seat ahead of the final matchday, when they entertain the Libyans.
Group B: Nigeria sealed qualification by edging past a well-drilled, combative Zambia side 1-0. Alex Iwobi – who also scored against the Zambians in the reverse fixture – proved his side's hero. Meanwhile, with both having been knocked out of contention last matchday, there was only pride to play for when Cameroon welcomed Algeria to Yaounde, and it was the Indomitable Lions who claimed the bragging rights with an industrious 2-0 win.
Group C: Already reeling after their home loss to Gabon last time out, Marc Wilmots' Côte d'Ivoire are now staring into the abyss after their limp 0-0 draw away to Mali, which leaves the Ivorians needing to get the better of Morocco in their last fixture in order to qualify.
Group D: South Africa belatedly breathed some life into their campaign by registering their first win of the group stage, a 3-1 defeat of Burkina Faso. Nevertheless, the Bafana Bafana stay bottom of the standings ahead of their November double-header against Senegal, who took command of the group and gave their qualification hopes a huge boost with their 2-0 success away to Cape Verde Islands.
Group E: Uganda hosted Ghana knowing that victory would see them leapfrog Egypt at the top of the table, at least temporarily. However, the Black Stars were not about to lie down and came away with a 0-0 draw. The upshot is that if the Pharaohs prevail at home to Congo later today, they will clinch a berth at the World Cup for the third time.
The quote "We knew that today's match was only a semi-final. Now we can go to Abidjan with more confidence, without having to take too many risks and with our fate in our own hands, albeit mindful that it'll be a tough game. We beat Côte d'Ivoire at this year's Africa Cup of Nations, so we know we can do it again." – Morocco coach Herve Renard