JOHANNESBURG: Morocco and Senegal moved to within one victory of advancing to the last phase of African World Cup qualifying after wins on Saturday put them in commanding positions in their qualifying groups.

Morocco beat Guinea Bissau 3-0 in Casablanca to open up a five-point lead in Group ‘I’ and will secure top place if they beat Guinea in Rabat on Tuesday.

Sadio Mane was among the scorers as Senegal beat their closest challengers Namibia 4-1 in Group ‘H’ and if they do the same in the reverse fixture on Tuesday will also be assured of winning the group.

But the expected battle for supremacy in Group ‘G’ remained tight at the halfway stage after South Africa won away in Ethiopia to keep one point ahead of Ghana, who were home victors over Zimbabwe.

Only the group winners from each of Africa’s 10 groups advances to March’s playoffs, where the five African representatives for Qatar 2022 will be decided.

In Casablanca, Ayoub el Kaabi scored in each half and Aymen Barkok got the other as Morocco playing a second game in three days and resting some of their key players, cantered to victory over Guinea-Bissau.

The Atlas Lions have a 100% record after three games with Guinea Bissau second on four points and Guinea on three. Guinea were held to a 2-2 draw by Sudan earlier on Saturday and must beat Morocco on Tuesday to stop the north Africans from winning the group.

Senegal and Namibia were both wasteful but still managed to conjure up five goals in their entertaining clash in Dakar, with Mane among those guilty of squandering gift-wrapped chances.

Paris St Germain midfielder Idrissa Gueye gave the Teranga Lions an early lead in Thies near Dakar that Turkey-based Famara Diedhiou increased before half-time.

After Mane claimed his third goal of the qualifying campaign on 55 minutes, Joslin Kamatuka pulled one goal back only for Keita Balde to restore the three-goal gap.

The convincing triumph lifted Senegal to nine points while Namibia have four, Congo Brazzaville two and Togo one.

A horror blunder from Ethiopia goalkeeper Fasil Gebremichael saw him let Tebogo Mokoena’s freekick slip through his hands and gift South Africa the halftime lead in Bahir Dar.

Although the home side were level soon after the break, South Africa scored twice in the final 20 minutes through Mothobi Mvala and Evidence Makgopa to move to seven points.

Ghana, with Milovan Rajevac returning as coach, were back at full strength for their game against Zimbabwe at Cape Coast and romped to a 3-1 triumph with goals from Mohammed Kudus, Thomas Partey and captain Andre Ayew.

Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2021

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