Emmanuel Emenike converted a 90th-minute penalty for a second-half brace to lead Nigeria to a 2-1 win in Ethiopia in their World Cup playoff on Sunday, putting the African champion in a strong position to play at football’s main event in Brazil in 2014.
In Sunday’s other playoff game, Samuel Eto’o reversed his brief international retirement and captained Cameroon in a 0-0 draw in Tunisia in their first leg, leaving his country with a slight advantage ahead of its home game next month.
Nigeria, this year’s African Cup winner, needed a late comeback in Addis Ababa after a determined Ethiopia dominated with its high-paced passing game for the first hour. Nigeria’s Godfrey Oboabona had to clear off the line in the 23rd to deny Saladin Said an early goal for the Ethiopians and Behailu Assefa then put the hosts ahead in the 57th when goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama fumbled his shot into the net.
But Fenerbahce forward Emenike equalised 10 minutes later and struck from the spot at the end to give Nigeria a lead to take to its home leg in Calabar on November 16. Ethiopia is trying to reach its first ever World Cup but was left to rue a string of missed early chances as Nigeria closed in on its fifth trip to the tournament out of the last six.
Ethiopia was convinced Saladin’s first-half attempt had crossed the line before Oboabona’s clearance, and the country’s football federation said it would register a complaint with the Confederation of African Football against referee Neant Alioum of Cameroon.
Eto’o started for Cameroon in Rades on the outskirts of Tunis after being convinced by State president Paul Biya to rejoin the squad for the crucial playoff. He had a subdued role as Tunisia started rapidly and Yassine Chikhaoui twice failed to capitalise when one-on-one with Cameroon goalkeeper Charles Itandje in the first five minutes.
“We are satisfied with the result,” Cameroon’s German coach Volker Finke said. “The final result is a good thing and now we have to win the next match.”
Cameroon worked its way back into the game and should have taken the lead when Pierre Webo missed an open goal in the 69th minute, but at least managed a clean sheet ahead of the second leg at home in Yaounde on November 17.
“We had some problems in the first 25 minutes but we improved our game little by little,” Finke said.
New Tunisia coach Ruud Krol introduced nine new players for the playoff after the Tunisians lost their last game at home against Cape Verde. That defeat led former coach Nabil Maaloul to resign before Cape Verde was stripped of the victory for fielding an ineligible player and Tunisia was reinstated to the final round of Africa’s qualifying competition.
“We were unlucky, we missed several chances but we played well,” Krol said. “We didn’t win but we didn’t lose either. The important thing is we didn’t concede a goal. The next match will be very difficult.”
On Saturday, Didier Drogba scored as Ivory Coast beat Senegal 3-1 and Burkina Faso edged Algeria 3-2. Egypt is away in Ghana on Tuesday to complete the first-leg games. The five aggregate winners will represent Africa at the World Cup in Brazil next June and July. Fifty-two countries started the qualifying process two years ago.
Associated Press writer Bouazza Ben Bouazza contributed to this report from Tunis, Tunisia.