Africa's Road to Brazil begins
Africa's Road to Brazil begins
Herve Renard has conceded that Zambia would have been too flattered if they had won their away qualifier in Sudan on Saturday. Meanwhile, Nigeria were very wasteful in Calabar but got the win they needed. Libya also got a priceless point in Togo and Ghana's game hogged the headlines for more than the scoreline. Algeria provided class, too. The road to Brazil 2014 has well and truly started.
The Central African Republic made history for themselves, recording their first ever World Cup qualifying win. At home in Bangui, the CentrAfricans beating Afcon debutants Botswana 2-0, through a brace from Kethevoama Foxi. In South Africa, Bafana Bafana dominated Ethiopia's Waliyas in Rustenburg but had to settle for a point after the two sides played to a 1-1 draw.
Salhadin Said Ahmed opened the scoring for Ethiopia in the first half, before Katlego Mphela equalized in the second. The Ethiopian fans outnumbered their Bafana Bafana counterparts and, in the end, they came close to snatching a win away from home. Bafana were in complete control for most of the game but Ethiopia hit them against the run of play from an error by Tsepo Masilela.
Masilela was forced off the field in the 34th minute because of injury, to be replaced by Punch Masenamela.
Equatorial Guinea went 1-0 up on Tunisia in the Eagles' home, but the Carthage lads rebounded to win 3-1 in Monastir. Ruben Epitie, a new entrant in the team from that of the African Cup, scored the opener. And then the sublime Issam Jomaa, quick Hamdi Harbaoui and efficient Chedi Hammami scored second half goals to seal the deal.
Sierra Leone and Cape Verde, the other group members, also played in Freetown. Mohammed Camara and Sherriff Suma gave Sierra Leone a 2-0 lead before Ze Luis pulled one back for Cape Verde. It finished 2-1 for the Leone Stars who are growing ever confident with every year
A Chelsea combo Salomon Kalou and ex-Blue Didier Drogba gave the Ivory Coast a 2-0 win over Tanzania in Abidjan. The game was played at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium but Tanzania showed plenty balls to hold things down for some time.
But the quality shone through in the end, with Salomon Kalou putting the elephants ahead. Still, Tanzania played well and ruffled the heavyweight Ivorians. Drogba kept his calm to finish of the game and get the road to Brazil started well.
Morocco captain Houssine Kharja scored the equalizer as the Atlas Lions drew 1-1 with Gambia in Banjul, after Abdou Jammeh has given the Gambians the lead. The home side have been hit with many withdrawals from their best stars who are not too enthused with systems in their national setup. New Gambia coach Luciano Mancini will be happy with his draw, despite being at home.
Maybe the African champions should have been warned when they drew 0-0 with Angola in a friendly in May. They did not, and the sluggish way they pleyed then manifested against Sudan.
"We deserved to lose, we did not play well," coach Renard said.
"The conditions were very difficult. It was very hot but we knew before it was very very hot, the pitch was not very good and we played against one team that was better than us yesterday."
A spectacular goal from Mohammed Tahir Osman that nearly raised the roof of the stadium and another from Saif Eldin Ali Idris got the Nile Crocodiles more than they deserved.
A day before, Lesotho landed in Ghana late on Thursday night and received a 7-0 thrashing from the hosts a day after. The match also saw bizarre scenes of an hour-long blackout. Sudan now top the group with Ghana, who have a better goal margin.
In Group E, the least number of goals in all the groups were recorded - none at all. Burkina Faso brought their poor African Cup of Nations form in their home tie with Congo Brazzaville. The match was played in Ouagadougou, but they need not have been too worried.
That's because Niger hosted Gabon, hosts of the recent African Cup, and settled for a 0-0 scoreline. In the last qualifiers, Niamey, capital of Niger had been a fortress and terrible place for anyone who ventured.
In Group F, Kenya dropped points at home after drawing 0-0 with Malawi in Nairobi. The Harambee Stars, despite fielding the returning Dennis Oliech, failed to trouble Malawi goalkeeper Simplex Nthara.
"I think Harambee Stars have a long way to go. They were playing at home but never created chances," Flames coach Kinnah Phiri said.
Kenya now prepare for next week's trip to Namibia, while Malawi host Nigeria. Phiri says his team's chances against the Super Eagles are bright.
"These boys make look small, but they are very intelligent and very fit and no team can play around with them"
"We have upset Egypt, DR Congo and Guinea at home - so Nigeria can be another victim."
Nigeria themselves played on Sunday and barely got past Namibia 1-0 in the southern coastal town of Calabar. The Super Eagles now top, but it was Spain-based striker Ike Uche who saved their blushes from several missed chances. The winner came after 80 minutes after he was set up by substitute Ahmed Musa.
Namibia had, like their nickname, put on a Brave Warriors show, particularly goalkeeper Vires Vigil while Vincent Enyeama on the opposite end was untested for the most part.
Zimbabwe have lost so many players due to match-fixing allegations and prosecutions and it showed when Guinea came around. The Westerners stunned Zimbabwe 1-0 on Sunday to go second in this group.
The goal, in the 25th minute, was from Ibrahima Traore in the game played at the National Stadium in Harare. Guinea are tied on three points with leaders Egypt. The northerners beat Mozambique 2-0 on Friday behind closed doors in Alexandria.
Egypt, whose Mahmoud Fathallah scored before an own goal sealed all three points, travel to Conakry on June 10, while Zimbabwe's side is also away across the border to Mozambique.
It's been six winless games without a win for the Squirrels of Benin - until Sunday when they beat Mali at the Stade de I'Amitié in Conotou. The serially reliable Razak Omotoyossi was what they needed to topple the more illustrious opposition.
Mali are faced with plenty political trouble back home, as well as battling with who will handle the national team following the departure of the Frenchman who took them so far in the last Afcon.
Benin's next sequence is Rwanda's capital on June 10 while Mali look for points with Algeria.
Razak, whp plays in Egypt now for Zamalek, needed 18 minutes to settle matters and put his side only second behind Algeria. The Desert Foxes themselves of Algeria started very well with a 4-0 win against a much depleted Rwanda. Despite being led by Claude LeRoy, Rwanda have had as many as eight regulars not be around for myriad reasons.
Two headers from Arbi Soudani, as well as strikes from Spanish-based sensation Sofiane Feghouli and Islam Slimani gave Algeria the win. The game was played at the Mustapha Tchaker stadium in Blida on Saturday.
Both goals between Togo and Libya came in the opening quarter of an hour, but that is how it finished. After just eight minutes, Kalen Damessi struck well to charge the Stade de Kegue fans.
It lasted only seven minutes, as Libya's African Cup main man Ahmed Zouay was at the finishing end of a team goal. He went on to do his customary Moonwalk dance. The game ended with both sides now behind Cameroon.
Slowly getting organised bit by bit, Cameroon beat the Democratic Republic of Congo 1-0 on Saturday. It was done without Samuel Eto'o and Enoch Eyoh, both on suspension.
At the November 11 Stadium in Luanda on Sunday, the Uganda went in to attempt and get a win against Angola in their opening 2014 World Cup qualifier, which would have been a first.
In the end, the Cranes were fine with a draw. Djalma Campos’ early goal had put the hosts in front for almost the entire game. That was until the prolific Emmanuel Okwi struck sweetly for a 1-1 draw.
This sees them both tied in second place in the group on one point. Angola play Liberia on June 10th while Uganda led by Andy Mwesigwa on this, his second match as skipper since the retirement of Ibrahim Sekagya, face Senegal.
Papiss Cisse is Senegal's new captain and is growing into the role. However, he missed a penalty in their 3-1 win against Liberia.
Senegal top the group.