Côte d'Ivoire joined Ghana and the hosts as the third African nation at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ after a dramatic equaliser from Didier Drogba secured a 1-1 draw in Malawi and top spot in Group E.
Elsewhere, Egypt kept hopes of reaching their first World Cup finals since 1990 alive with a 1-0 victory in Zambia, while Cameroon continued their revival with a straightforward 3-0 win over Togo. That result leaves the Indomitable Lions on 10 points and on top in Group A, just one ahead of Gabon, who beat Morocco 3-1 in Libreville.
*Game of the day *Zambia 0-1 Egypt
*Goals: Hosni Abd Rabou 69 (Egypt)
*Despite being outplayed for most of the match in Chililabombwe, Egypt emerged victorious thanks to a wonder-strike from Hosni Abd Rabou and a string of fine saves from goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary. The nail-biting win was just enough for the reigning two-time African Champions to keep the pressure on Algeria in Group C. The sides are currently level on 10 points at the top of the table, although Algeria have a match in hand against Rwanda tomorrow.
Remarkably, Abd Rabou’s right-footed blast from the edge of the area into the top corner was the Pharoah’s only genuinely threatening moment in the match, and if not for Al-Hadary’s heroics near the half-hour mark in tipping Christopher Katongo's header onto the woodwork, the continental giants may have been out of the competition.
Surprise of the day
Malawi 1-1 Côte d'Ivoire
*Goals: Jacob Ngwira 64 (Malawi); Didier Drogba 67 (Côte d'Ivoire) *
Though Côte d'Ivoire did enough to qualify for South Africa 2010 by claiming a point and clinching the top spot in Group E, Malawi turned in the shock performance of the day by not only defending resolutely but taking the lead against what many consider the best side on the continent. The Flames, who were thrashed 5-0 by the Ivorians in March of this year, had previously been rooted to the bottom of the table after losing their opening three matches in the final round of qualifying. However, a win over Guinea in their last contest and a point against the Elephants leave them in with a shout for a top three finish in the group and a place at the next African Cup of Nations. The unlikely draw brought the Ivorians' perfect record in the group to an end, but the West Africans won’t be bothered after reaching their second World Cup finals on the trot.
Player of the day
*Didier Drogba (CIV)
With the rest of the continent expecting a relative walkover for Côte d'Ivoire, the Elephants were shocked in the 64th minute when they fell behind. However, just as it seemed that his side would be unable to break down their brave hosts, driven on by a passionate crowd in Blantyre, seemed to be settling in, coach Vahid Halilhodzic turned to his bench and called for the resting Chelsea star to come on. And the man who everyone expected to be a hero did not disappoint, as he confidently claimed the equaliser minutes after coming on for his 39th goal in 57 internationals.
1 – The number of goals that Cameroon veteran Geremi Njitap has scored in 10 South Africa 2010 qualifiers. He tallied the vital opener against Togo in the 32nd minute on the third try after goalkeeper Odjovi Obilale saved his penalty and the rebound from Achille Emana.
What they said
"We had to overcome a lot of pressure, and we are pleased to have achieved our goal and won over Zambia, but we cannot ignore our mistakes... I expect a lot more from the African Champions than I saw today,” Egypt coach Hassan Shehata.
Zambia 0-1 Egypt
Malawi 1-1 Côte d'Ivoire
Cameroon 3-0 Togo
Gabon 3-1 Morocco