(AP) — Cameroon beat Libya 1-0 Sunday to clinch the last place in Africa’s World Cup playoffs, finally ending the conflict-racked country’s qualifying campaign as seven of 10 groups were decided in the last round of games.
Defender Aurelien Chedjou’s goal three minutes before halftime settled Group I and saw the four-time African champion through to the 10-team playoffs. Libya needed to win to produce a major shock and progress instead.
Cameroon, which had slumped to miss the last two African Cups, joined top-ranked African team Ivory Coast, Egypt, Algeria, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Burkina Faso and surprise packages Ethiopia and Cape Verde Islands in the crucial playoffs, which start next month.
Five countries will ultimately qualify from those two-legged ties to represent Africa at Brazil 2014.
Nigeria, Senegal and Ethiopia reached the playoffs Saturday, while Tunisia crashed out after being shocked at home by Cape Verde. The North Africans’ World Cup dream disappeared at the very end of the main qualifying competition with a painful 2-0 loss in Rades, and the Cape Verdeans continued their breakthrough year after playing in their first African Cup.
Burkina Faso also kept its hopes of playing in Brazil alive by beating Gabon and overtaking Republic of Congo on the final matchday. Ivory Coast, Egypt and Algeria had already won their groups before the weekend’s games. Ghana progressed on Friday.
The top five teams in FIFA’s rankings on Sept. 12 will be seeded in the draw for the playoff ties and can’t meet. Ivory Coast, Ghana, Algeria, Nigeria and Cape Verde are currently the highest ranked countries in the playoffs.
African champion Nigeria saw off Malawi 2-0 through goals from Europe-based forwards Emmanuel Emenike and Victor Moses.
“We are truly delighted to be in the final round, and we believe the Super Eagles will do the nation proud by picking one of the five tickets to represent Africa at next year’s FIFA World Cup,” Nigeria Football Federation general secretary Musa Amadu said.
Ethiopia came from behind with two second-half goals to win 2-1 over Central African Republic in neutral Republic of Congo and qualify from Group A, eliminating 2010 World Cup host South Africa, which beat Botswana 4-1 in vain. Ethiopia’s winner came, ironically, from Minyahile Beyene, the player whose presence in an earlier qualifier while suspended led to Ethiopia forfeiting a game and having its progression put on hold.
The victory in Brazzaville sparked wild celebrations back home in Ethiopia, which has never played at the World Cup despite being one of the founding members of African football. The football-mad East African nation is now one tie away from the biggest stage.
Tunisia led Group B and was overwhelming favorite to qualify, needing just a draw at home to Cape Verde. But the islanders scored twice in the first half and the Tunisians couldn’t come back, resulting in coach Nabil Maaloul saying he would resign after his team was booed by its own fans for the final 10 minutes.
“We were out of it,” a dejected Maaloul said. “The players weren’t able to respond to the Cape Verde team, which was better than us. This was my final game as national coach.”
Senegal avoided a surprise loss to Uganda in neutral Marrakech to qualify, and clinched a 1-0 victory late on with Sadio Mane’s 84th-minute winner.
Like Cape Verde, African Cup runner-up Burkina Faso leapfrogged Republic of Congo with a precious Prejuce Nakoulma strike to beat Gabon 1-0. Republic of Congo’s 2-2 draw with Niger in Niamey proved costly as it surrendered the lead and qualifying position from Group E by a single point to the Burkinabes, who now have a chance at the World Cup after playing in African football’s biggest game this year.
Ivory Coast was already through before a 1-1 draw with Morocco in Abidjan, where Didier Drogba hit an 83rd-minute penalty to scrape a draw for the Ivorians. Ghana qualified by edging out Zambia, while Egypt and Algeria play their final group games Tuesday.
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