Ethiopia ended the hopes of 2010 World Cup host South Africa from making next year’s finals in Brazil after a dramatic round of African group stage qualifying matches yesterday.
The Ethiopians join Algeria, Egypt, the Ivory Coast and Tunisia through to the third and final phase of the African preliminaries.
Five places are yet to be decided with the last cycle of Round 2 group matches remaining.
The 10 group winners from Round 2 of qualifying face two-legged playoff ties in October and November which will ultimately decide the five African representatives for next June’s World Cup finals.
Ethiopia ensured an unassailable five-point lead in Group A as it came from behind to beat South Africa 2-1 in Addis Ababa and continue a fairy tale run that saw it compete at the African Nations Cup finals earlier this year for the first time in more than three decades.
Egypt kept up the only 100% record in the African qualifiers with a 1-0 win over Mozambique to ensure top place in Group G while Yaya Toure scored twice as the Ivory Coast won away in Tanzania to ensure top spot in Group C.
A 1-1 draw away for Tunisia in Equatorial Guinea means it cannot be caught in Group B.
Algeria beat Rwanda earlier on Sunday but its progress was only secured when Mali was held at home by Benin later on in the day.
Ethiopia was behind to a 33rd-minute goal from Bernard Parker as South Africa went in search of the away win to resurrect its World Cup chances after a stuttering qualifying campaign.
But poor defense just before half-time allowed Getaneh Kebede to equalize and then Parker conspired to head an Ethiopian free kick into his own goal in the 70th minute for an ignominious end to the Bafana Bafana’s challenge.
A fourth goal in two games from Swiss based winger Mohamed Salah saw Egypt win 1-0 in Maputo over Mozambique but it wasted a myriad of late chances to easily treble its lead.
Egypt has won all five group games — the only side with a perfect record — as it seeks its first World Cup appearance since 1990.
Tanzania shocked Ivory Coast with an early goal in Dar Es Salaam but Toure led the fight back with two goals from the penalty spot for a 4-2 victory.
An Oussama Darragi penalty in the second half in Malabo ensured the one point Tunisia needed to also progress as it kept up its unbeaten run in Group B.
Algeria top Group H after Saphir Taider’s goal gave it a 1-0 win over Rwanda in Kigali and Mali’s chances of catching them evaporated with a 2-2 draw home to Benin.
Yesterday’s 10 qualifying matches across the continent also allowed Ghana and Senegal to stay in the hunt of places in the final round of African qualifying.
Christian Atsu and Asamoah Gyan scored as Ghana beat Lesotho 2-0 in Maseru to go above Zambia in the Group D standings. Ghana takes a one-point lead into its final match in September when it hosts the Zambians, who must win away to progress.
Senegal beat Liberia away courtesy of a Papiss Cisse brace to go top of Group J by a point. It hosts nearest challenger Uganda at home in September.
In Group I, Cameroon boosted its chances by drawing 0-0 away in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It trails Libya by two points but host it in its last game in September. — Reuters