All three North African teams left in the 2022 World Cup qualifying race made a statement of intent to reach Qatar in November when they all posted impressive results in their first leg qualifying games but it was the Super Eagles of Nigeria that re-enacted a 21-year record by holding the Black Stars of Ghana to a 0-0 draw at the Kumasi Sports Stadium on Friday night.
In March 2011 when both countries were drawn in the same qualifying group, the Super Eagles forced the Black Stars to a barren draw at the Accra Sports Stadium before going on to win by a comprehensive 3-0 victory in the return leg in Port Harcourt, a result which saw Nigeria reach it’s third successive World Cup at Korea/Japan 2002.
In other games, Morocco forced a 1-1 draw in Kinshasa with substitute Tarik Tissoudali scoring in the 76th minute to cancel out Yoane Wissa’s 12th minute opener for DR Congo. The hosts finished the game with 10 men after Ngonda Muzinga was sent off for a second bookable offence in the 85th minute.
African champions Senegal fell to a Saliou Ciss own-goal in the fourth minute as Egypt held on to the lead for a delicate one-goal lead going into the second leg next week while AFCON 2021 third-place winners Cameroon succumbed 1-0 at home to Algeria in coach Rigobert Song’s first game in charge.
Islam Slimani got the only goal via a header in the 40th minute and was yellow-carded in the 68th minute before he was pulled off eight minutes later for Ishak Belfodil in a victory which will assuage the pains of the Algerian fans after a distrasous AFCON campaign.
The Eagles of Mali finished with one man less as they crashed 1-0 at home to the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia through Moussa Sissako’s own goal, four minutes before the defender got a straight red card to cap a miserable night.
All five games are finely balanced going into the decisive second legs on Tuesday when the five African representatives will be known.