World Cup 2022: Ghana and DR Congo reach African play-offs

Andre Ayew of Ghana
Andre Ayew scored the vital goal that took Ghana through to the play-offs above opponents South Africa

Ghana scraped through to the African World Cup play-offs when beating South Africa 1-0 in Cape Coast to leapfrog their opponents at the top of Group G.

Andre Ayew, a mainstay of Ghana's World Cup displays, fittingly scored the vital match-winner after 33 minutes as Bafana Bafana suffered their first loss in the group at the worst time.

The visitors will question the penalty that enabled Ayew to take Ghana through after it was awarded in debatable circumstances with Daniel Amartey falling to the floor after the mildest of contacts.

Both Ghana and South Africa won 13 points in the group and after ending with the same goal difference, the Black Stars edged through courtesy of having scored one goal more than Bafana Bafana in the group (7-6).

South Africa's World Cup woes go on with the national team, bidding for a fourth finals, having failed to qualify for the tournament since becoming the first African hosts of the event in 2010.

Ghana, meanwhile, are now two games away from returning to the tournament for the first time since 2014 and for the fourth time overall.

They become the sixth team to reach the play-offs, joining DR Congo, Egypt, Mali, Morocco and Senegal in the third and final qualifying round.

Africa's five World Cup representatives at Qatar 2022 will be decided when the two-legged play-offs take place in March.

Congolese eyeing history

Earlier on Sunday, DR Congo reached the play-offs when beating Benin 2-0 in Kinshasa.

Bidding to reach a first World Cup since 1974, the Congolese took an early lead through a Dieumerci Mbokani penalty before Ben Malango sealed the win when heading home from close range after 74 minutes.

Captain Mbokani, 35, has belied his veteran status in this qualifying campaign with four goals in six games.

The victory enabled the Congolese to overtake their opponents, who have never been to a World Cup, at the top of Group J on the sixth and final round of games.

The Congolese finished the group with 11 points, one more than Benin, while Tanzania recorded eight and Madagascar four.

DR Congo striker Dieumerci Mbokani
DR Congo striker Dieumerci Mbokani, 35, scored four goals in Group J

Madagascar drew 1-1 at home to Tanzania as both sides also finished their Group J campaign on Sunday.

Saimon Msuva gave the visitors the lead as he slid home left-footed after 25 minutes, with Hakim Abdalah levelling for the Malagasy as he registered his first goal of the campaign when firing past a packed defence sixteen minutes from time.

Madagascar were then reduced to ten men as Pascal Razakanantenaina received a second yellow, with Tanzania unlucky not to grab all three points when hitting the crossbar moments later.

Senegal finish on a high

With the luxury of having qualified with a match to spare, Senegal could relax at home to Congo and ran out 2-0 winners in Thies.

With Sadio Mane missing through injury, Ismaila Sarr stepped up in his absence as his goals after 14 and 24 minutes secured a lead the Teranga Lions never looked like losing.

Senegal finished Group H with 16 points, eleven points clear of both Togo and Namibia - who meet on Monday, while Congo won just three.

Elsewhere, Zimbabwe drew 1-1 at home to Ethiopia in Harare in Group G, from which neither side - both of whom will be at January's Africa Cup of Nations - can progress.

After Kuda Mahachi's sumptuous 35-yard strike gave them the lead shortly before the break, Zimbabwe had looked on course for their first group win only for Abubeker Nassir to coolly equalise four minutes from time as he glided past the goalkeeper before finding an empty net.

In the Moroccan city Agadir, Mali ensured they finished their Group E campaign unbeaten when beating Uganda 1-0.

The Eagles overcame having to play on neutral territory, because their home stadium is deemed unfit to host internationals, with Kalifa Coulibaly scoring the match-winner with a looping header just 19 minutes in.

Mali's fifth victory took them to 16 points in the group, seven superior than Uganda, their closest rivals, while Kenya took three points and Rwanda just the one. Kenya host Rwanda as the group concludes on Monday.