CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — Nigeria moved a point away from Africa's final World Cup playoffs as a pair of penalties saw off Liberia 2-0 on Saturday, while a crunch game between Ivory Coast and Cameroon will decide which one goes through out of their group.
Tunisia blew its chance of reaching the 10-team playoffs with a game to spare by losing in Equatorial Guinea in a big shock. Those two are now tied at the top of their group and a tense finish is in store there too.
Victor Osimhen drilled home the first spot kick for Nigeria against Liberia in the 15th minute, and was fouled for Ahmed Musa to add a second goal from the spot deep into injury time. Liberia goalkeeper Boison Wynney gave away both penalties with reckless challenges.
The victory kept Nigeria top of Group C by two points and needing just a draw at home to second-place Cape Verde on Tuesday in the final group games to reach the playoffs.
Cape Verde, the island nation that made a big impact by reaching the quarterfinals at its first African Cup in 2013, is still in contention after coming from behind to beat Central African Republic 2-1, helped by Júlio Tavares’ overhead volley with his back to goal. But Cape Verde faces the tough task of keeping its World Cup dream alive against Nigeria in Lagos.
Cameroon and Ivory Coast will meet Tuesday in Cameroon with everything to play for in Group D.
Ivory Coast beat Mozambique 3-0 to reclaim the lead of the group by a point from Cameroon.
Cameroon had earlier ruthlessly punished Malawi 4-0 after the Malawians had John Banda sent off in the 21st minute for blocking Vincent Aboubakar's shot with his hand on the goal line.
Aboubakar knocked home the penalty to make it 1-0.
André-Frank Zambo Anguissa hit the goal of the game by controlling a corner on the edge of the area and volleying in to put Cameroon 2-0 ahead. Christian Bassogog scored two goals in two minutes near the end, although Malawi was already well beaten.
Leicester's Patson Daka scored Zambia's first goal in a 4-0 mauling of Mauritania in Group B. Fashion Sakala then took over to net a hat trick. Zambia's hopes of making the playoffs are alive, if only just, as it trails Tunisia and Equatorial Guinea by three points.
Only the 10 group winners reach the playoffs, which will be held in March.
Tunisia is at home to Zambia and Equatorial Guinea travels to Mauritania, which has been eliminated.
Tunisia could have decided the group with a win in Equatorial Guinea on Saturday but Pablo Ganet swept home the winner there for Equatorial Guinea with seven minutes to go to shock the Tunisians and set off wild celebrations.
Mali, Egypt, Senegal and Morocco have already made it to Africa's final playoffs, where the five winners of the 10 two-leg ties go to the World Cup in Qatar next year.
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Gerald Imray, The Associated Press