Africa’s 10 best teams opened the region’s final round of World Cup qualifying Friday, with the first leg of each home-and-away tie closely contested. theScore has all the results heading into the second legs next Tuesday.
DR Congo 1-1 Morocco
Morocco bounced back from a rough start to secure an important away draw with DR Congo. After conceding early, Morocco took control of the contest in the second half and was rewarded with a crucial equalizer in the 75th minute.
Morocco is in the driver’s seat heading into the second leg in Casablanca on Tuesday. But the North African nation will be disappointed to leave DR Congo with just a draw, as Tarik Tissoudali’s equalizer was preceded by Ryan Mmaee missing a penalty that could’ve lifted Morocco to victory.
Cameroon 0-1 Algeria
Islam Slimani, the region’s leading scorer in World Cup qualifying, netted his eighth goal of the campaign Friday to give Algeria a 1-0 advantage heading into the second leg of his country’s tussle with Cameroon.
Slimani cranked a powerful header off a free-kick minutes before halftime to collect the all-important away goal in Douala.
The game was delayed when the floodlights above Algeria’s goal went out at the start of the second half. Despite having 11 additional minutes of stoppage time, Cameroon couldn’t find a breakthrough.
Algeria is hoping to return to the World Cup after missing the tournament in 2018. It reached the round of 16 in 2014 after finishing with just one point in the group stage in 2010.
Cameroon also failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. The last time it missed back-to-back tournaments was in the 1970s.
Mali 0-1 Tunisia
Moussa Sissako might never be able to forget his disastrous mistakes that cost Mali dearly in Friday’s first-leg defeat to Tunisia. It all started in the 36th minute when the 21-year-old defender’s heavy back pass eluded his goalkeeper and bounced into the Mali net to give the visiting side an important away goal.
Sissako followed the deflating gaffe by picking up a straight red card less than five minutes later. The ruling left the host nation without much hope of mounting a comeback against a superior Tunisia side that has to be considered the favorite to seal a World Cup berth at home Tuesday.
Egypt 1-0 Senegal
Less than two months after losing to Senegal in the Africa Cup of Nations final, Egypt exacted a small measure of revenge against its rival, beating the continent’s reigning champion 1-0 in Cairo to secure a slender advantage on aggregate.
Senegal had plenty of opportunities to equalize but couldn’t cancel out Saliou Ciss’ unfortunate fourth-minute own goal. Ciss inadvertently deflected the ball into his own net when Mohamed Salah’s effort crashed off the crossbar and hit the defender’s back. It was Egypt’s first goal and win against Senegal since February 2006.
While Sadio Mane got the better of Liverpool teammate Salah on Feb. 6, when his country beat the Pharaohs on penalty kicks to claim the Africa Cup of Nations, the Egyptian returned the favor Friday.
Ghana 0-0 Nigeria
The aforementioned rematch between Egypt and Senegal garnered much of the focus heading into the final round of African World Cup qualifying, but the concurrent clash between Ghana and Nigeria – two of the continent’s proverbial powers – was equally significant.
The West African rivals, who have captured seven AFCON titles between them, didn’t quite live up to that billing, though, playing out a conservative goalless draw at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium that saw the two sides combine for just four shots on target. Ghana was able to largely subdue Victor Osimhen, the Nigerian star who’s been in scintillating form of late with Napoli. The 23-year-old striker was isolated up front against an organized Ghanaian outfit that has clearly made stylistic changes since coach Otto Addo was brought in to help the Black Stars rebound from a dismal AFCON.
But Addo’s team created little at the other end, and were it not for VAR and the referee overturning a penalty initially awarded to Nigeria for a second-half handball, Ghana could have been in a serious hole heading into the second leg in Abuja.
As it is, though, the matchup is finely poised ahead of Tuesday’s decider.