Nigeria first to fly flag high for Africa

ABUJA • Alex Iwobi's goal saw Nigeria become the first African team to qualify for next year's World Cup Finals in Russia, while Ghana were eliminated in the qualifiers.

A 73rd-minute strike by the Arsenal forward handed the Super Eagles a 1-0 success over Zambia in Uyo, ensuring top spot in Group B with a game to spare.

"It was my goal to qualify this team to an amazing tournament like the World Cup," said Nigeria captain John Mikel Obi. "I'm proud to captain this team of great players and coaches. My wife is Russian and she and the kids will be in Russia to cheer us at the World Cup."

Nigeria now have 13 points with second-placed Zambia on seven.

Ghana, quarter-finalists at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, were eliminated after managing only a goalless draw in Uganda, whose players were each promised US$3,000 (S$4,094) to win.

In stoppage time, Ghana forward Raphael Dwamena had the ball in the net, pouncing on a rebound after Richmond Boakye-Yiadom's shot came off goalkeeper Denis Onyango. The referee, however, ruled it offside, although television replays showed he was onside.

The Ghana Football Association (GFA) has since lodged a protest with Fifa.

"The GFA respectfully asked Fifa to consider the possibility of a replay in order to serve the ends of justice without fear or favour," it wrote in a statement on its website.

Last month, football's world governing body Fifa ordered a qualifier between South Africa and Senegal to be replayed because of match-fixing by the referee.

Four-time African champions Ghana are third in Group E behind Egypt and Uganda. Egypt could return to the finals for the first time since 1990 if they beat bottom-placed Congo this morning (Singapore time).


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 09, 2017, with the headline 'Nigeria first to fly flag high for Africa'. Print Edition | Subscribe