Saturday, November 14, 2009

Nigeria (!) and Cameroon Join the 2010 Party

Cameroon took care of business.

Nigeria took care of the upset.

Cameroon put an exclamation mark on its worst-to-first surge in Africa Group A, going to Fez and throttling Morocco 2-0 to clinch its sixth appearance in a World Cup final -- a high for any African nation.

Meanwhile, Nigeria pulled a dramatic switcheroo on the final day of qualifying in Africa Group B, winning a 3-2 goalfest at Kenya while Tunisia was shut down and shut out, 1-0, at Mozambique.

Leaving just one South Africa 2010 berth out there to be won today (probably), Algeria or Egypt out of Africa Group C.

Nigeria was in trouble, before today's action began. It suffered a surprising (at the time) tie at Mozambique, then saw a home victory turn into a 2-2 tie when Tunisia's Oussama Darragi scored in the 89th minute, back in September.

That left Tunisia in control of its destiny, at Mozambique. And then the matches kicked off.

Tunisia didn't score in the first half, but its two-point lead looked secure because Nigeria trailed 1-0 at halftime in Nairobi.

Things turned in a hurry. Nigeria got even in the 62nd minute on a goal by Obafemi Martins and went ahead three minutes late on a goal by Aiyegbeni Yakuba. Kenya got even in the 79th minute, but Martins scored the winner in the 83rd minute.

Meanwhile, Tunisia not only couldn't win, at Maputo, it surrendered a goal to Dario in the 83rd minute ... and a quarter-hour after that Tunisia had failed to qualify for the first time since 1994, and Nigeria was in. Rest assured the change at the top was celebrated in Abuja and Lagos.

Turns out, Mozambique was a tough place to play. The 'biques tied Nigeria at home and won against Kenya and Tunisia, and it is that one point Nigeria got for the tie at Maputo that has it going to South Africa. What looked, a day ago, like a bad result, actually was decisive -- in a good way for Nigeria.

Meanwhile, Cameroon proved it was just too strong for its group, taking care of Morocco with the help of a goal from Samuel Eto'o. The victory was rendered moot when second-standing Gabon couldn't manage to win at Togo, going down 1-0.

That settles Africa's lineup for South Africa 2010 -- South Africa, the host; Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and the winner of the Egypt-Algeria game currently underway.

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