Africa's road to Brazil: Big winners and big surprises

Posted by Firdose Moonda

South Africa team celeb vs MoroccoAPSouth Africa secured a 2-0 win against CAR to keep the pressure on Egypt.

Two teams consolidated their positions at the top of their groups in the World Cup qualifiers, one pulled off a surprise win and others kept up the pace to ensure Africa's road to Brazil will continue follow a path of twists and turns. Two more matches will be played on Tuesday, but on the whole, the third round is complete and this is part one of what it brought.

- Part II: Champions humbled, talisman steps up

Group A
South Africa 2-0 Central African Republic
Ethiopia 1-0 Botswana

Gordon Igesund's Bafana Bafana could have scored many more times against the Central African Republic (CAR) but had to settle for finding the back of the net just twice. The main talking point from the match was a disallowed CAR goal because of a hand ball. Their coach Herve Lougoundji insisted his team had scored and said: "the way the referee handled the match was not okay".

CAR have yet to leave South Africa, although the match was played on Saturday evening, because of the conflict in their country. South African soldiers were killed in the country over the weekend and the situation in CAR has already caused South African media to wonder whether Bafana Bafana will be able to travel there to play the return match in June.

If South Africa hope to top their group, they will have to win in Bangui and Addis Ababa, which may prove tough for a team that has generally struggled to perform elsewhere on the continent. For now, Ethiopia continue to lead the group after they beat Botswana at home. They left it late, until the 88th minute, to score the game's only goal.

Group B
Tunisia 2-1 Sierra Leone
Equatorial Guinea 4-3 Cape Verde

The Carthage Eagles are one of only two sides to have won all three of their qualifiers so far. Tunisia attacked from the get-go but the Leone Stars absorbed pressure until after half-time. Oussama Darragi's gave Tunisia the lead and it was doubled by Wabhi Khazri before the Leone Stars pulled one back.

Their loss and Equatorial Guinea's win leaves the two teams level on four points with Cape Verde out of the reckoning. Malabo witnessed the match with the most goals as Andoni Goikoetxea fulfilled his first assignment in charge of the team by ensuring the stayed in contention for Brazil.

The advantage yo-yoed as Equatorial Guinea led, Cape Verde equalised then led, then the hosts equalised and led before the islanders drew level for a third time and then had nothing more when met with a fourth goal. Emilio Nsue, from RCD Mallorca, registered a hat-trick on debut and will no doubt appear for the country again as they hope to topple Tunisia.

Group C
Ivory Coast 3-0 Gambia
Tanzania 3-1 Morocco

In the upset of the weekend, Morrocco lost in Dar-es-Salaam and remain without a win in World Cup qualifying. The East Africans led from the 57th minute when Thomas Ulimwengu scored and TP Mazambe's Mbwana Samata recorded a brace before the Atlas Lions got on the scoresheet. They were also reduced to 10-men in the process. Morocco have been responsible for Tanzania's failure to qualify for previous African Nations' Cups and the victory will no doubt have given them a greater achievement knowing the teams' histories.

Tanzania are now just a point behind Ivory Coast, who remained at the top of the group with a 3-0 win over Gabon. The Elephants laboured for much of the first half and many believed it was due to Didier Drogba's absence, but they eventually scored from the penalty spot and then added two more. Gambia lie at the bottom of the group.

Group D
Lesotho 1-1 Zambia
Ghana 4-0 Sudan

A group headlined by two of Africa's most watched teams provided the right kind of tension as Zambia were held to a draw and Ghana thumped Sudan to put one point between themselves and the 2012 continental champions.

Zambia have been lacklustre since they won the crown in 2012, first in their defence of it, and now in World Cup qualifying. Zambia went ahead through Collins Mbesuma with 17 minutes to play but were at a disadvantage for most of the second half because their goalkeeper, Kennedy Mweene, was sent off. Lesotho's Listsepe Marabe's long-range shot gave the minnows a goal and Zambia had to settle for the draw.

That result, Asamoah Gyan admitted, served as inspiration for the Black Stars when they took on Sudan. Gyan himself, Mubarak Wakaso, Abdul Majeed Waris and Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu all found the back of the net in an emphatic performance which downed Sudan, who are bottom of the group.

Group E
Congo 1-0 Gabon
Burkina Faso 4-0 Niger

Surprise group leaders, Congo, stayed at the head of the table after they beat Gabon thanks to Queens' Park Rangers defender Christopher Samba. His goal has made Congo the only team other than Tunisia to have won all of their matches so far. Their nine points, compared to everyone else in Group E with three, means it is ever likelier that that will play in the final qualifying round.

Burkina Faso ensured they put themselves in position to challenge Congo, although it will be tough task. The ANC finalists ran riot in an attacking display that appeared to have picked up from where their tournament stopped. Jonathan Pitriopa gave the team the lead inside three minutes and Aristide Bance, Charles Kabore and Prejuce Nakoulma all fired home. The Burkinabe, Niger and Gabon all have one win in the group.

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