How Ghana, Senegal, Morocco, Cameroon Tunisia Survived World Cup Final Play-offs To Fly Africa’s Flag In Qatar
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By Our Correspondent With Agency Report
Ask of Nigeria, Egypt, Mali, DR Congo, Algeria in the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and you will not see them there because they failed to navigate the last qualifying hurdles for the Qatar showpiece.
The African line up for the 2022 Qatar FIFA World Cup have been concluded with the return leg matches of the play-off round completed in sensational and exciting fashion on Tuesday.
African champions Senegal headline the five African countries to proceed to the World Cup alongside Morocco, Ghana, Tunisia and Cameroon.
Here is a summary of how the exciting return leg matches concluded.
Ghana qualified for their fourth World Cup after edging out Nigeria on the away goal rule following a 1-1 draw in Abuja. The two sides drew 0-0 in the first leg in Kumasi last week and heading into the return fixture, the Ghanaians only needed a scoring draw to progress.
And they did exactly that, qualifying for the World Cup after missing the 2018 showpiece in Russia. For Nigeria, this is the first time they will be missing the World Cup since 2006.
Thomas Partey had given Ghana an 11th minute lead before William Troost Ekong levelled for the Super Eagles in the 22nd minute.
Partey broke the deadlock with a sleek shot from the edge of the box with keeper Francis Uzoho seeing the ball sneak between his body and the ground, a dream start for the visitors.
Nigeria fought to get level and they did so in the 22nd minute from the penalty spot awarded after a lengthy VAR check. Ademola Lookman was clipped inside the box by Dennis Odoi and Ekong stepped up to score and put Nigeria firmly back in contention.
The Super Eagles thought they had grabbed the lead in the 34th minute but Victor Osimhen was flagged down for offside and the decision was confirmed by VAR.
In the second half, Ghana managed to soak in the pressure from Nigeria and saw off the result after 90 minutes.
For the second time in as many months, Senegal edged out Egypt on penalties. Having beaten the Pharaohs on spot kicks to clinch their first TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations title, the Lions of Teranga repeated the same feat, this time to seal a place in the World Cup.
Once again, it was Sadio Mane who scored the decisive kick as Senegal progressed to the World Cup for the third time in their history.
In the shootout, both teams missed their first two kicks. Kalidou Koulibaly struck the crossbar for Senegal before Saliou Ciss saw his effort saved. On the other end, Mohamed Salah blazed his effort over the bar while Ahmed Mostafa ‘Zizo’ struck wide.
Ismaila Sarr however scored the third for the Senegalese with Ahmed El Solia responding for Egypt. Bamba Dieng then stepped up to score the fourth and they were handed a massive boost when Edouard Mendy saved Mostafa Mohamed’s attempt.
It was now up to Mane to score the decider, and the Liverpool forward made no mistake.
In regulation time, Senegal had scored in the fourth minute, just about the same time Egypt scored in the first leg. Boulaye Dia made the most of a defensive lapse to score and level the tie on aggregate.
The 1-0 scoreline on the night would stay till the end of 90 minutes and additional 30, prompting the game to be decided on penalties.
The Atlas Lions were in emphatic form against the Congolese at the Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca, winning 4-1 on the night and 5-2 on aggregate to sail into their sixth World Cup appearance.
Azzedine Ounahi scored a brace with Tarik Tissoudali and Achraf Hakimi adding one each to the massive victory. Ben Malango scored DR Congo’s consolation, but it was mere statistic as the Moroccans sailed through with ease.
Ounahi broke the deadlock in the 21st minute with a sublime shot from outside the area, handing the home side a huge lift in terms of pressure.
The game had a long stoppage after a head injury on Morocco keeper Yassine Bounou but upon resumption, the home side continued dominating.
They doubled the lead in the seventh of 12 added minutes when Tissoudali collected the ball at the edge of the box, drove in and showed great composure to score one on one with the keeper.
In the second half, it took Morocco nine minutes of the restart to make it 3-0, Ounahi completing his brace after collecting Tissoudali’s pass inside the box and slamming the ball past the keeper.
Hakimi then completed the rout in the 69th minute when he reacted quickest to a spilled ball from the keeper before burying home.
On his former stomping grounds, ex Raja Club Athletic forward ben Malango scored DR Congo’s only goal with a brilliant strike, controlling Cedric Bakambu’s ball on his chest before firing an unstoppable volley from the edge of the box.
Karl Toko Ekambi swept home perhaps the most important goal of his career, scoring in the fourth minute of added time as Cameroon beat Algeria 2-1 in Blida to qualify for their eighth FIFA World Cup.
The two teams played to a 2-2 aggregate score, but Cameroon qualify to Qatar on the away goal rule.
Algeria had scored two minutes to the end when Ahmed Touba headed home Rachid Ghezzal’s corner, but the never say die Indomitable Lions had the last laugh, Ekambi sweeping the ball home inside the box after Michael Ngadeu headed down the ball for him.
It was massive heartbreak for Algeria with their coach Djabel Belmadi sinking to the turf after the fulltime whistle in a case of too close but too far for Les Fennecs.
The game was forced to extra time after a 1-0 score-line to Cameroon in the regulation 90 minutes.
In regulation time, skipper Maxime Choupo Moting scored the lone goal for Cameroon, slamming the ball home after keeper Rais M’Bohli dropped a corner right at his feet.
Algeria had chances to draw level and the best of them fell on Youcef Bellaili. Off a counter, Islam Silimani collected the ball and squared to Bellaili on a silver platter, but the midfielder fired wide with only the keeper to beat from 10 yards out.
In extra time, Algeria thought they had scored a vital goal when Slimani netted from a cross on the left. However, Algeria’s celebrations were cut short by the VAR, with the Algerian forward adjudged to have handled the ball as he headed the ball in.
Andre Onana made two brilliant saves denying Bellaili from close range and Youcef Attal’s thunderous strike from distance.
Elsewhere, Tunisia completed the roster of five for African teams to Qatar despite being held to a 0-0 draw by Mali at home. The 1-0 victory they picked in Bamako last week proved to be vital, as the Carthage Eagles flew to their sixth World Cup appearance.