Wednesday 06 September 2017, 07:46

Nigerians on the brink, big guns out in the cold

  • Nigeria could only draw but remain on the verge of qualification

  • Cameroon and Algeria were eliminated from the race

  • Tunisia and Burkina Faso scored crucial late levellers

THE MATCHDAY REPLAYED – Only Nigeria were mathematically able to qualify during the fourth instalment of the third round of African qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, but the Super Eagles will have to wait another month before attempting to obtain the points they require to advance. Their draw with Cameroon did have one direct impact: Les Lions iIdomptables are no longer in the running for a qualifying spot.

Algeria, who competed at Brazil 2014, are also out, and Ghana are now in great danger of suffering the same fate, despite their resounding victory over Congo. Egypt, meanwhile, made up for their previous slip-up in Uganda by picking up three points against the same opponents in Alexandria, and Tunisia and Burkina Faso both came back to earn hard-fought draws late on. puts the African Zone qualifiers under the microscope.

ResultsGroup A: Congo DR 2-2 Tunisia, Libya 1-0 Guinea Group B: Cameroon 1-1 Nigeria, Algeria 0-1 Zambia Group C: Mali 0-0 Morocco, Côte d’Ivoire 1-2 Gabon Group D: Burkina Faso 2-2 Senegal, South Africa 1-2 Cape Verde Group E: Egypt 1-0 Uganda, Congo 1-5 Ghana

Match of the day Congo DR 2-2 Tunisia Defeated 2-1 in Tunisia three days ago, Congo DR hoped to cancel out that result when they welcomed the Carthage Eagles to the raucous Stade des Martyrs. And everything seemed to be going to plan as the home side built up a solid two-goal advantage, Chancel Mbemba heading home the opener after nine minutes and Paul Jose Mpoku doubling the lead in the early stages of the second half.

However, things can change in a blink of an eye in football, and when Congolese midfielder Wilfred Moke deflected a Mohamed Amine Ben Amor shot into his own net with a good 12 minutes remaining on the clock, the match was suddenly up for grabs. In the end, the Tunisians took just two minutes to conjure up an equaliser through Anice Badri’s improvised volley, but there was to be no further scoring. The North Africans hold a three-point lead at the top of Group A.

ElsewhereGroup A: While the top two were locking horns in Kinshasa, the bottom pair clashed in Monastir. Libya gained revenge for their 3-2 reverse in Guinea last week by eking out a 1-0 home win, but both teams have been knocked out of the qualifying race.

Group B: Despite Vincent Aboubakar’s equalising penalty, which negated Moses Simon’s opener for Nigeria, Cameroon were forced to bid farewell to their World Cup dream, having now failed to win any of their four group games so far. The draw gave hope toZambia, who needed to acquire all three points in Algeria to have any chance of catching the Nigerians. And they did just that, notching a 66th minute winner to stay in the hunt and knock Les Fennecs out of contention* *in the process.

Group C: Still smarting from their stinging 6-0 defeat in Morocco on Friday, Mali made amends somewhat in front of their own supporters by holding the same team to a scoreless draw. The Atlas Lions, for whom Hakim Ziyech missed a penalty, may regret not finding the winning goal that would have taken them top of the section, following Côte d’Ivoire’s shock 2-1 loss in Gabon. Les Elephants now have* *a one-point lead over Morocco.

Group D: Burkina Faso, who had worked hard for a share of the spoils in Senegal on Saturday, knew that they would retain leadership of Group D should they manage a similar result against the same opponents in Ouagadougou. With Sadio Mane having handed Senegal a 2-1 lead in the 75th minute and Les Etalons being reduced to ten men, the home fans began to feel a sense of despondency set in. However, an own goal by the unfortunate Pape Seydou N’Diaye not only kept the Burkinabe at the top of the pool, but it also pushed Senegal down into third place, due to Cape Verde’s surprising 2-1 triumph in South Africa.

Group E:After losing 1-0 to Uganda on Thursday,Egypt, who have not appeared on the World Cup stage since 1990, were forced to relinquish top spot in the group. On Tuesday, the Pharaohs returned to the summit of the section, Mohamed Salah’s all-important goal seeing off the Cranes. Ghana kept their faint hopes alive with a 5-1 demolition of Congo.** **

The number 4 – Ghana’s Thomas Partey, who was first capped in June 2016, had not scored an international goal prior to his country’s double-header with Congo. There was nothing unusual about this situation, as he usually plays as a defensive midfielder. But in the space of three days, the Atletico Madrid player proved that he did actually have a nose for goal, especially in high-pressure circumstances: he registered the Black Stars’ equaliser in the 1-1 draw with Congo in Kumasi, and in the second match in Brazzaville, he proceeded to notch a memorable hat-trick.