Nigeria celebrate Russia qualification

Alex Iwobi scored as Nigeria beat a stubborn Zambia 1-0 to become the first African side to seal a place at next year's World Cup in Russia.

 

The win put them on an unassailable 13 points at the top of Group B.

Chances were missed at both ends by the time Shehu Abdullahi provided the cut-back for Iwobi to finish from inside the box in the 73rd minute.

Odion Ighalo, John Mikel Obi, Victor Moses and Moses Simon went close for the Super Eagles but failed to score.

Zambia goalkeeper Kennedy Mwenne produced an acrobatic save to deny Wilfred Ndidi in the second half in a pulsating end-to-end encounter.

Augustine Mulenga thought he had put Zambia ahead in the 22nd minute, but his effort was ruled out for offside.

Fashion Sakala, Alex Ng'onga and Enock Mwepu had chances for the Chipolopolo but the 2012 African Champions failed to punish a perplexed Super Eagles defence.

But substitute Iwobi, who had scored in the reverse fixture in Ndola last October, finished off a decent attack to send Nigeria to a third straight World Cup appearance.

Moses had a great opportunity to add a second towards the end, but the Chelsea wing-back slipped inside the box.

Nigeria stay top in Group B and advance with one game to spare from a pool that was ddayubbed the "Group of Death" and expected to go down to the wire.

Russia will be Nigeria's sixth appearance at the World Cup.

In the day's other Group B encounter, Cameroon beat Algeria 2-0 at the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in Yaoundé on Saturday, for their first win of the campaign.

In what was a dead-rubber encounter, between two teams battling for pride and world ranking points only, the reigning African champions came out on top with goals from Clinton Njié and Franck Pangop.

For the Fennec Foxes, another defeat highlights a disappointing qualifying campaign with the North African's having conjured but a single point from five matches.

El Arabi Soudani missed a trio of golden chances for the Algerians on the day, in a largely frustrating encounter for the visitors who dropped both Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani for the match in the Cameroon capital.

Uganda and the Black Stars of Ghana had to settle for a goalless draw in their Group E qualifier at the Mandela National Stadium in Namboole on Saturday, a result which takes their qualification hopes out of their hands.

The draw virtually ends Ghana's hopes of reaching Russia, although Uganda will hope that Congo Brazzaville can defeat Egypt on Sunday.

A victory for the Pharoahs against Congo in Alexandria will put Egypt through with one match remaining.

Uganda striker Emmanuel Okwi kept the Ghana defenders busy with his quick runs which - one of which resulted in Ghana skipper Daniel Amartey getting booked.

Farouk Miya blasted wide from a free kick after six minutes, while Okwi's cross cross after 17 minutes was also punched out of danger by Ghana's goalkeeper Richard Ofori.

After 34 minutes Daniel Opare had a chance for Ghana, but his shot from a corner kick missed the target.

Despite a tricky playing surface, Ghana looked comfortable on the ball, but still lacked the killer punch in-front of the Uganda Cranes goal.

Daniel Nsibambi came close for Uganda, but with just the goalkeeper to beat he headed out a well taken Geoffrey Walusimbi cross.

In a tense finish, Okwi had a shot saved, and Ghana thought they had scored in the dying seconds only for the strike to be ruled off-side.

The Ghana players surrounded the match officials after the final whistle and left Black Stars coach Kwesi Appiah baffled.

"I think it was a good goal because the goalkeeper punched back the ball," said Appiah after the match.

As for the Cranes coach Moses Basena, he said he was disappointed they failed to collect three points.

"We shall keep working hard because this is a young team," Bassena said.

The draw leaves Egypt top of Group E with nine points, Uganda moved to eight points and Ghana six.

DR Congo kept alive their slim hopes of qualifying from Group A by beating hosts Libya 2-1 at the Stade Mustapha Ben Jannet in Monastir on Saturday evening.

The victory sees the Leopards remain three points behind Group A leaders Tunisia.

In the final round next month, DRC will need to beat Guinea and hope that Tunisia lose at home to Libya in order to leapfrog into first place and advance into the tournament finals.

After a goalless first half in Monastir, DRC claimed the lead in the 50th minute through Cedric Bakambu, who beat goalkeeper Ahmed Azzaqa to make it 1-0. 

The Mediterranean Knights struck back in the 69th minute to make it 1-1, with Al Motasim Al Musrati’s goal giving Tunisia hope that they could seal qualification with a game to spare.

However, the Leopards reclaimed the lead and ensured the group will only be decided in the final round when Ndombe Mubele struck home in the 75th minute to seal a 2-1 away win.

Tunisia maintained their lead at the top of the group as Yousef Msakni scored a hat-trick and dished out an assist in a 4-1 victory away to Guinea.

Naby Keita fired Guinea in front on 37 minutes but Tunisia roared back, with Msakni restoring parity on the stroke of halftime.

The 26-year-old beat the keeper at his near post with a superb low shot to make it 2-1 in the 75th minute before feeding the overlapping Amine Ben Amor to add the third six minutes from time.

Msakni completed his hat-trick in stoppage time with an easy tap in at the far post following a cross from Ali Maaloul.

Tunisia need only a draw against Libya in their final match next month to reach the World Cup for the first time since 2006.

South Africa breathed fresh life into their World Cup qualifying campaign with a convincing 3-1 home win against Group D leaders Burkina Faso in Johannesburg.

The win gives Stuart Baxter's side a chance to fight for the group's sole ticket as they could still finish top if they win their remaining two matches.

Bafana Bafana stay two points adrift of Cape Verde, who lost 2-0 at home to Senegal in the second match of Group D later on Saturday.

After a goalless first half, Senegal seized the advantage late in the game with two goals in the last seven minutes.

West Ham's Diafra Sakho scored after 83 minutes with Cheikh Ndoye adding a second in the 90th minute.

That victory puts Senegal top of Group D with two fixtures against South Africa to come.

In the final match of the day Khalid Boutaib hit a hat-trick as Morocco beat Gabon 3-0 in Casablanca to leapfrog Ivory Coast at the top of Group C.

Boutaib headed hosts Morocco ahead in the 38th minute with the Turkey-based forward adding a second in the 56th minute and he completed his hat-trick in the 72nd minute.

Morocco now have a slender one-point lead over Ivory Coast and both countries will fight for the sole group ticket on the final day in Casablanca on 6 November.

Gabon, who were buoyed by the return to the squad of their superstar Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, are now eliminated from the race to Russia.

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