Cameroon edged Ivory Coast 1-0 to book a place in March’s African World Cup playoffs as the continent’s group phase came to a dramatic conclusion on Tuesday.
In a battle of two continental heavyweights, Karl Toko Ekambi scored the only goal to beat the Elephants with a narrow margin in a clash full of tension and vigour.
Cameroon, who came to the match second in Group D standings, advance to the playoffs as the group winners while Ivory Coast miss out on the second World Cup in a row.
Returning from a nine-month drug ban, Cameroon’s Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana made several vital saves to keep the late rallying of the Ivorians at bay.
Elsewhere in Group B, Tunisia beat Zambia 3-1 at home, while Equatorial Guinea’s hopes ended with a 1-1 draw away in Mauritania.
African champions Algeria drew with Burkina Faso 2-2, and the continental giants Nigeria also progressed with a draw at home against Cape Verde Islands.
Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez put Algeria in front in 21 minutes before Zakaria Sanogo made the score level in 37 minutes. Algeria restored the lead in 68 minutes, but a late penalty saw them held to a 2-2 draw in Blida. Algeria finished with 14 points in Group A, two ahead of the Burkinabe.
In group C, Napoli striker Victor Osimhen put the Eagles in front inside the game’s opening minute in Lagos before Stopira made the score level in the sixth minute as the two teams finished the group stage first and second with 13 and 11 points respectively.
The four countries will compete in the playoffs along with the already qualified Egypt, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Mali, Morocco and Senegal.
In March, the ten teams will play five two-legged ties as the aggregate winners represent Africa at Qatar’s World Cup finals in November.
Mohamed Salah’s Egypt beat Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Gabon 2-1 in Alexandria in an insignificant match. Salah was a second-half substitute in the game, while Aubameyang didn’t feature at all.