African World Cup Favourites Struggle In Qualifiers

Nigeria's Coach Stephen Keshi. The African champions were held to a one all draw by Kenya
Nigeria’s Coach Stephen Keshi. The African champions were held to a one all draw by Kenya

Several of the favourites in Africa’s qualifiers for the 2014 Fifa World Cup Brazil struggled on the third matchday of the group stage, now at the half-way point.

Morocco’s loss in Tanzania was the biggest surprise, while 2012 African champions Zambia were held to a draw in Lesotho and Senegal and new African kings Nigeria were held at home. As only the ten group winners advance to the final round of qualifying, the dropped points will undoubtedly increase the pressure and the chances of a major shock moving forward.

The Super Eagles were expected to enjoy a bit of a walk in the park at home against their East African opponents, however, it turned out to be anything but as 20-year-old Kahata gave the visitors the lead when he scored direct from a free-kick.

The hosts, who had enjoyed the upper hand until that time, continued going forward in search of an equaliser but were thwarted time and again by Harambee Stars goalkeeper Origi Otieno. The Lillestrom custodian, however, was unable to prevent substitute Oduamadi scrambling a shot over the line from close range to give the Super Eagles a dramatic share of the spoils. With five points, Nigeria lead Group F on goal difference over Malawi, who won 1-0 in Namibia.

Ethiopia maintained their lead at the top of Group A with a 1-0 victory at home against Botswana. South Africa played themselves back into second in the table with a 2-0 win in Cape Town against the Central African Republic, but they remain two points behind the Walya Antelopes.

Congo stayed strong in Group E, as their 1-0 victory – courtesy of a goal by Premier League star Christopher Samba – against Gabon saw them maintain their 100 per-cent record. They lead the group by six points over Burkina Faso, who trounced Niger 4-0, while Niger and Gabon are also on three points. In Group B, Tunisia have a similarly convincing lead after Oussama Darragi and Wahbi Khazri gave them a 2-1 win against Sierra Leone.

The North Africans are perfect on nine points, while Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea have four. Emilio Nsue, who was a member of the Spanish U-21 squad that won the 2011 Uefa European U-21 Championships, scored a hat-trick as Equatorial Guinea won a thriller against Cape Verde 4-3.

Ivory Coast continue to top Group C after their 3-0 win against Gambia, but the Elephants are surprisingly being tracked by Tanzania, who won 3-1 against Morocco with Mbwana Samata scoring a brace. The Ivorians have seven points, one more than the Taifa Stars.

Senegal, whose quarterfinal finish at the 2002 Fifa World Cup remains their only finals appearance, drew their Group J game 1-1 against 2006 finalists Angola. Moussa Sow gave the Lions of Teranga a first-half lead, but Amaro equalised for the visitors with 15 minutes to go. Senegal top the group with five points, one ahead of Liberia, who secured a 2-0 victory against Uganda.

Zambia, who disappointed at the most recent CAF Africa Cup of Nations, had goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene sent-off and suffered a set-back in their attempts to qualify for a first Fifa World Cup. Despite drawing 1-1 in Maseru, Zambia continue to lead Group D by a point from Ghana, who beat Sudan 4-0.

Mali came from behind to defeat Rwanda 2-1 and move to the top of Group H, while Guinea drew 0-0 in Mozambique in their Group G game. The two final games (Egypt-Zimbabwe and Algeria-Benin) will be played on Tuesday.

Results

23 March

Congo 1-0 Gabon

Cameroon 2-1 Togo

Nigeria 1-1 Kenya

Ivory Coast 3-0 Gambia

Namibia 0-1 Malawi

Senegal 1-1 Angola

Burkina Faso 4-0 Niger

Tunisia 2-1 Sierra Leone

South Africa 2-0 Central African Republic

24 March

Tanzania 3-1 Morocco

Lesotho 1-1 Zambia

Mozambique 0-0 Guinea

Rwanda 1-2 Mali

Congo DR 0-0 Libya

Ethiopia 1-0 Botswana

Ghana 4-0 Sudan

Liberia 2-0 Uganda

Equatorial Guinea 4-3 Cape Verde Islands

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