West Africa may not be the holder of the African Cup of Nations cup, but it has once again asserted itself as the powerhouse of African football, claiming three of the five spots for the World Cup, football’s most prestigious competition.
Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria booked their tickets for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa after the final group matches on Saturday. Cameroon clinched one place for Central Africa while Egypt and Algeria, both North African countries, will slug it out on Wednesday for the final African slot.
West Africa contributed three teams to the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany – Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Togo – showing class in the qualifiers.
Nigeria edged out Tunisia on Saturday in dramatic fashion, coming from behind to beat Kenya 3-2 in Nairobi while Tunisia, who were favourites in the group, was h umbled by Mozambique 1-0 in Maputo.
Tunisia was two points clear of Nigeria going into the final day, but it was the Super Eagles who took their destiny in their own hands, and soared high above the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia to reach South Africa.
Ghana was the first country in Africa to qualify for South Africa followed by western neighbour Cote d’Ivoire.
Cameroon spanked Morocco 2-0 at the backyard of the north African country while Togo punctured any hopes of Gabon making its first World Cup appearance with a 1 – 0 victory in Lome.
North African rivals Egypt and Algeria will have another encounter, this time on neutral grounds in Sudan on Wednesday, to determine which of them travels to South Africa in 2010.
The Egyptians needed a 3-0 score line to edge past Algeria but won 2-0 to clinch a play-off, as both teams were tied on 13 points each with the same goal difference.
Indeed, Egypt were only a few seconds away from missing out in the play-off before Emad Moteab’s late injury time goal in the tense match gave them a lifeline.
Fifteen teams will join host country, Angola, for the 2010 African Cup of Nations.
They are Cameroon, Gabon, Togo, Nigeria, Tunisia, Mozambique, Ghana, Benin, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Malawi.
Accra – 15/11/2009