Africa’s top contenders all advanced with varying degrees of difficulty through the knockout stage of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers on Tuesday to book a place in the decisive group phase next year.
Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Egypt, the Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia, who have all been to past finals tournament, emerged victorious from two-legged ties among 20 countries who now await the draw for the group stage.
Ghana and Nigeria both overcame fearsome competition from minnow opposition while the north African trio of Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia had a more comfortable passage.
African champions Ivory Coast, with a double from Giovanni Sio, beat neighbours Liberia 3-0 while Senegal overcame Madagascar by the same score line for a 5-2 aggregate triumph with goals from Cheikhou Kouyate, Moussa Konate and Mame Biram Diouf.
Cameroon were held to a goalless draw at home but a 3-0 win in Niger in Friday’s first leg laid the platform for their success while an own goal gave South Africa a 1-0 victory over Angola in Durban for a 4-1 aggregate triumph.
Goals from Moses Simon and Efe Ambrose saw Nigeria defeat brave Swaziland 2-0 in Port Harcourt after a goalless draw in the first leg while Ghana also won 2-0 on aggregate after a tough fight against the tiny Comoros Islands in Kumasi. A free kick from Mubarak Wakaso and goal near the end from Jordan Ayew ensured their progress.
Fullback Faouzi Ghoulam and striker Islam Slimani netted two each as Algeria hammered Tanzania 7-0 for a 9-2 aggregate triumph while Egypt’s Ahmed Hassan scored twice in 4-0 win over Chad in Alexandria.
Tunisia beat Mauritania 2-1 at home to match the score line from the away leg at the weekend.
Also advancing on Tuesday were Burkina Faso, the Cape Verde Islands, Congo, Mali and Libya, who produced the only away victory of the day to eliminate Rwanda in Kigali despite the fact their domestic league has been halted by civil strife in Libya and the national team is forced to host its home matches at neutral venues.
Already through over the weekend were the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Guinea, Uganda, Zambia and Morocco, who have been to four past World Cup finals.
FIFA have yet to set a date for the draw where the 20 counties will be divided into five groups of four with the group winners qualifying for Russia.