Mazeed Mukhtar Oyeleye reports,

Africa thrummed with energy through dusk yesterday, March 29, 2022, as soccer fans drummed support for their respective countries, putting up one last fight for Africa’s five slots at the FIFA World Cup, coming up in Qatar by winter. The earliest matches saw Nigeria and Senegal host Ghana and Egypt at the Abuja National Stadium and Stade Me Abdoulaye Wade, respectively, looking to clinch a win to make it into the World Cup draw scheduled for Friday, April 1, 2022.

The first goal of the evening was a fourth-minute own goal by Egypt’s Hamdi Fathi that drew Senegal level on aggregate with Egypt. Having suffered a loss away from home in the first leg, thanks to another fourth-minute own goal by Saliou Ciss, Senegal went on to play their hearts out, dominating the match in every aspect, excluding offsides and yellow cards.

A full-time deadlock saw Egypt and Senegal proceed into an extra time that ended goalless, leading to a penalty shoot-out similar to the African Cup of Nations final on February 6, 2022. The shoot-out began with a quartet of losses, two of which were from the captains of both teams, Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly and Liverpool’s Egyptian talisman, Mohamed Salah. The game ended after Sadio Mane’s brilliant spot-kick, bringing Senegal’s tally to 3, against Egypt’s lone shoot-out goal.

Ghanian captain, Thomas Partey, opened the scoring ten minutes into the game at Abuja, putting his country ahead on away goals. Nigeria levelled up twelve minutes later with a penalty kick by Nigeria’s captain, William Trost-Ekong. A VAR offside ruling truncated Nigerians’ jubilation after Victor Osimhen converted a thirty-fourth-minute cross from Ademola Lookman into a goal. Nigeria continued to push for a win, dominating on all fronts, excluding fouls and bookings. Unfortunately, their efforts yielded nothing, and they ultimately lost to Ghana on away goals.

Later matches of the evening had Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia host Cameroon, DR Congo and Mali to a loss, a win and a draw, respectively.

Algeria began their game with an away goal advantage, having won the first leg by a lone goal from Islam Slimani, the tournament’s highest goal scorer. However, a twenty-second-minute strike from Cameroon and FC Bayern Munich’s Jean-Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting cancelled out the lead on aggregate. The game resumed with Algeria bossing the match in every way, except fouls, yet they had no goals to show for it.

The full-time whistle ushered the match into a breath-taking extra time. Play continued with both teams putting in their best bet, but there were no goals until the final five minutes. A decisive strike from Ahmed Touba at the 118th minute convinced many that the slot was Algeria’s. However, an unexpected fourth-minute-of-added-time goal from Olympique Lyonnais’ Karl Toko Ekambi snatched the World Cup slot from Algeria, giving Cameroon an away goal triumph.

Morocco sealed their World cup slot with a four to one win at home, the only emphatic win in the third round of this year’s African World Cup qualifiers. They had held DR Congo to a one-goal draw in the first leg, going home with an edge on away goals. However, it did not matter in the end. Tarik Tissoudali and Achraf Hakimi’s goals and Azzedine Ounahi’s brace helped the Atlas Lions rip their Central African opponent’s chances to shreds.

Tunisians played through their teeth on home ground, resorting to aggression to maintain their one-goal lead from the first leg in Mali, courtesy of Moussa Sissako’s own goal. The full-time whistle brought the goalless encounter to an end, leading the North-African Eagles of Carthage to their second consecutive World Cup since missing out in 2010.

The matchday ended with a West African duo of Senegal and Ghana, Central African Cameroon, plus a North African pair of Morocco and Tunisia setting their sights on the World Cup come winter of 2022. However, African soccer fans expressed mixed feelings over the results.

Dare Scott, a Nigerian Facebook user, questioned the commitment of the Nigerian players.

“When it comes to the international scenes Nigeria players always disappoint but if it were their club they would play with much passion,” he commented on a post regarding Ghana’s triumph. 

Berdi Lalyo, another Facebook user, could not hold back his shock.

He wrote, “Football is crazy! Cameroon qualifies instead of Algeria. Oh God!”, commenting on a post that announced Cameroon’s advancement to the 2022 World Cup.

A Twitter user, St James, was particularly satisfied with the results.

“North African teams play a lot of dirty football tactics. They always think they have been cheated when they lose a game. Egypt and Algeria, in particular, would have given Africa a very bad image if they qualified for this tournament,” he explained in a reply tweet.

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