By Samindra Kunti
September 11 – Zimbabwe’s Khama Billiat broke Somalian hearts with a late strike on Tuesday to end East Africans dreams of progressing to the group phase of World Cup qualifying for the first time. At the end of the emotions, Guinea-Bissau created history, progressing for the first time with a 2-1 aggregate win over Sao Tome e Principe.
In Harare, Somalia were on course for their own historic result after Omar Abdullah Mohamed cancelled out Marshall Munetsi’s acrobatic opening goal in the 84th minute. With the clock ticking down, a late rearguard action from the hosts reserved fortunes. Admiral Muskwe equalized in the 86th minute with a deflected free kick. Even so, Somalia were still going through on the away-goals rule, but Billiat had the final say with an angled finish in injury time to put The Warriors through in dramatic fashion and survive a huge scare.
Guinea-Bissau enjoyed a historic night on home soil with a 2-1 win over Sao Tome e Principe in the return leg. They advance for the first time to the second round 3-1 on aggregate.
In Manzini, Djibouti recorded an impressive 0-0 draw to overcome Eswatini 2-1 on aggregate to ensure progress for the second time. It is the first time Djibouti have avoided a defeat on the road in a World Cup qualifier and will go a long way in reframing the reputation of Julien Mette’s side as whipping boys. When the French coach was appointed in February, the FDF asked him to make sure Dijbouti would no long suffer ridiculous results, the way Eswatini, then Swalizand, had eliminated Dijbouti at the same stage in World Cup qualifying 8-1 on aggregate in 2015.
Mozambique, Angola, Togo, Rwanda, Namibia, Sudan, Malawi and Togo all booked their berths as well. The Rwandans were rampant against the Seychelles, scoring seven goals to win 10-0 on aggregate. Gerald Phiri’s late penalty was enough for Malawi to advance 1-0 on aggregate at the expense of Botswana.
The 14 preliminary round winners from the two-leg fixtures and the 26 countries with byes will then be split into ten groups of four after a fresh draw with the first matches next March. In the third and final round of qualifying the ten group winners will square off in five two-leg playoffs with a ticket for the 2022 World Cup at stake.
At the 2018 World Cup Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia represented Africa, but none made it past the first round.
Namibia 2-0 Eritrea (4-1 agg.)
Eswatini 0-0 Djibouti (1-2 agg.)
Angola 2-1 Gambia (3-1 agg.)
Mozambique 2-0 Mauritius (3-0 agg.)
Sudan 0-0 Chad (3-1 agg.)
Rwanda 7-0 Seychelles (10-0 agg.)
Zimbabwe 3-1 Somalia (3-2 agg.)
Malawi 1-0 Botswana (1-0 agg.)
Guinea-Bissau 2-1 Sao Tome e Principe (3-1 agg.)
Togo 2-0 Comoros (3-1 agg.)
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1575859961labto1575859961ofdlr1575859961owedi1575859961sni@o1575859961fni1575859961