Nigeria became the first African team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup on Saturday after a 1-0 victory over Zambia.
Alex Iwobi came off the bench and struck late in the second half as the Super Eagles soared to 13 points in Group B, finishing comfortably above Zambia, Cameroon and Algeria to secure their sixth appearance at the World Cup.
Iwobi latched onto a cutback just inside the box after good interplay between Victor Moses and Shehu Abdullahi, before drilling home with unerring accuracy in the 74th minute.
With one match left to play, Nigeria can begin to look forward to their sixth appearance at the grandest stage of all.
In Group E, Ghana and Uganda played out a dour goalless draw in Kampala which dents the pair’s hopes of World Cup qualification and leaves Egypt within one win of a place in Russia next year.
The Black Stars will feel hard done by after replays showed a number of incorrect decisions by the officials.
Nevertheless, the stalemate took Uganda to eight points, one behind Egypt who play their game in hand against already eliminated Congo-Brazzaville in Alexandria on Sunday knowing that a victory would end their 27-year wait for a place at the World Cup.
Ghana, in third on six points, need Egypt to lose against Congo, Uganda to fail to beat the Red Devils next month, and to beat the Pharaohs in their final qualifier to reach a fourth consecutive World Cup.
Senegal are well on course to qualify for the World Cup next year after a 2-0 victory in Cape Verde that took them top of qualifying Group D.
Diafra Sakho was the man who got the all-important opener, laying the ball off to substitute M’baye Niang before smashing his teammate’s parried shot into the roof of the net after the goalkeeper could not hold a stinging Niang shot across goal.
Cheikh Ndoye put the cherry on top with a second goal deep into stoppage time, which did Senegal’s goal-difference no harm as they top the group on eight points.
Senegal will guarantee qualification for Russia 2018 if they beat South Africa in one of their final two matches against Bafana Bafana, who kept their own hopes alive with a 3-1 home victory over Burkina Faso.
That game in Johannesburg was tainted once again by questionable refereeing decisions as Bongani Zungu was dismissed during a scuffle after goals from Percy Tau, Themba Zwane and Sibusiso Vilakazi has already put the hosts three up before half-time.
Alain Traore scored a brilliant, late free kick for the Burkinabe, whose own World Cup hopes are now in trouble but not yet done.
Youssef Msakni capped an outstanding display with a hat trick and Naby Keita was sent off for violent conduct as Tunisia came from behind to beat Guinea 4-1 and remain at the top of World Cup qualifying Group A.
Keita scored first for Guinea before Msakni’s three goals and an assist for Mohamed Amine Ben Amor turned things around completely.
Tunisia will be overwhelming favourites to get the job done at home against Libya in their final fixture next month, however, DR Congo are still in the hunt after beating Libya 2-1 in Monastir.
Congo stuttered en route to three points when Libya’s Elmutasem Al Musrati struck in the 69th minute to cancel out Cedric Bakambu’s opener, but Wilfred Moke nabbed the winner for the Leopards in the 74th minute.
Morocco claimed a big step towards Russia 2018 in Group C after a 3-0 home victory over Gabon that eliminated their opponents from the World Cup.
Khalid Boutaib struck a hat trick to seal the result as the Atlas Lions moved a point above Ivory Coast, who failed to ignite in a 0-0 draw with struggling Mali.
These results place all the significance on the Elephants’ final home fixture in early November against Morocco, who only need a draw to qualify and deny the Ivorians a spot in Russia.
In the other game in Nigeria’s Group B, Clinton N’Jie and the debuting Frantz Pangop fired Cameroon past Algeria as the reigning African champions secured a 2-0 win in Yaounde.
The heavyweight duo, both of whom were present in Brazil in 2014, were already out of the running for the global showpiece in Russia next summer after taking just three and one point respectively from their opening Group B fixtures.