There were ear damaging ululations in Egypt and Nigeria over the weekend when the countries’ national football teams qualified for 2018 Fifa World Cup to represent Africa.
The party began in Nigeria when Arsenal magical boy Alex Iwobi netted a lone goal for the Super Eagles in a tough encounter against Zambia, on Saturday. Then fun went to Egypt on Sunday, when Liverpool winger Mohammed Salah’s brace against Congo secured the Pharaohs a place at the global soccer tourney.
Nigeria’s slender one nil triumph made it the first African team to book a ticket for Russia World Cup, with Egypt following. The Pharaohs needed a last minute penalty to defeat Congo and become the second African team to make it to Russia.
The two teams have qualified at the expense of three 2014 World Cup African representatives. Nigeria which was also among last edition’s participants, denied Algeria and Cameroon the chance. Egypt disappointed regulars, Ghana, whose goalless draw against Uganda on Saturday swallowed their hopes of a 4th successive qualification.
The global soccer show which brings together 32 nations, attracts five African nations as per rules. This means only three places are left for African teams following the qualification of Nigeria and Egypt.
The remaining spots will be filled in November after a final round of qualifiers. The stiff competition in the qualifiers has seen top teams struggling to collect points. Ivory Coast which represented the continent at the last three tournaments, is facing tough opposition.
In the previous tournament which was hosted by Brazil and won by German, the following teams represented the continent: Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nigeria.
Egypt’s qualification has altered matters since the same nations plus South Africa also represented the continent in 2010, on home soil in South Africa. The Pharaohs have qualified for the first time since 1990.