Even with two matches to spare, Senegal this Tuesday became the first team through to Africa’s play-offs for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar after beating Namibia 3-1.
Senegal for many months have sat atop of the Fifa monthly rankings in Africa.
Turkey-based forward Famara Diedhiou was the hero, outshining Sadio Mane and others as he scored once in the first half and twice in the second to register his second hat-trick for Senegal.
Peter Shalulile had found the back of Edouard Mendy’s net after Diedhiou’s opener to give the Namibians brief hope of holding on against the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations runners-up.
The match was played in Soweto, South Africa, since Namibia’s home stadium in Windhoek has been declared unfit to host matches.
The win takes Senegal to 12 points in Group H, with Namibia (four points), Congo (two) and Togo (one) now all out of the running. Congo host Togo later on Tuesday.
The winners of Africa’s ten qualifying groups will contest the play-offs next March, whereupon the continent’s five representatives in Qatar will be determined.
Elsewhere, Ghana won their second straight Group G game in a row under new coach Milovan Rajevac, as they beat Zimbabwe for the second time in four days.
Following on from Saturday’s 3-1 win on home soil, the Black Stars secured a 1-0 win in Harare as Arsenal’s Thomas Partey netted a free-kick for his second goal in as many qualifiers.
The win takes Ghana to nine points, two more than a South Africa side who can reclaim top spot with victory over Ethiopia later on Tuesday in Johannesburg.
With just one point, Zimbabwe can no longer qualify for the World Cup, while Ethiopia – on three points – need a win to keep their slim hopes alive.
Later, Niger play an Algerian side looking to extend their unbeaten run to 31 games.
The African champions are currently eyeing the world record of 37 games without a loss, which was recently set by Italy.
In Tuesday’s late game, Guinea ‘host’ Morocco in Morocco in a game that was postponed from last month following the coup in the Guinean capital Conakry.
Owing to the uncertain political situation in Guinea, the tie was moved by the Confederation of African Football to the Moroccan capital Rabat.
The North Africans can join Senegal in the play-offs should they win the Group I clash.