Ivory Coast qualified for the 2010 World Cup by drawing 1-1 in Malawi on Saturday and Cameroon moved closer to joining them with a 3-0 triumph over Togo.
Chelsea striker Didier Drogba scored just 120 seconds after coming on in the second half to give the Ivory Coast an unassailable seven-point Group E advantage.
The visitors had been rocked midway through the second half at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre when Jacob Ngwira scored his first World Cup goal to put Malawi ahead.
Bosnia-born Ivory Coast coach Vahid Halilhodzic responded by sending on Drogba to score the goal that took the cocoa-producing west African country into a second consecutive World Cup tournament.
Ivory Coast have 13 points, Burkina Faso six, Malawi four and Guinea three and attention now turns to who will finish second and third after the final fixtures next month and qualify for the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations in Angola.
England coach Fabio Capello says Ivory Coast are capable of going far in South Africa next year, while Chelsea boss Carlos Ancelloti claims he would coach them for free at the finals, much to the annoyance of Halilhodzic.
Apart from talismanic Drogba, Ivory Coast also started with Barcelona midfield enforcer Yaya Toure on the bench, while an injury ruled out his older brother, Manchester City defender Kolo.
Resurgent Cameroon stayed top of Group A after outclassing shock 2006 qualifiers Togo in Yaounde.
Midfielder Geremi Njitap scored at the second attempt off a penalty to give the Indomitable Lions a halftime advantage against Togolese opponents led by reigning African Footballer of the Year Emmanuel Adebayor.
The Manchester City striker was substituted 15 minutes into the second half, however, after goals from Jean Makoun and Achille Emana had given Cameroon a 3-0 cushion.
Makoun netted off a pass from Inter striker Samuel Eto’o, who dribbled past four defenders, and Emana beat overworked keeper Kodjovi Obilale with a low drive.
Gabon stayed one point adrift after beating Morocco 3-1 in Libreville. Hicham Mahdoufi conceded an own-goal on the stroke of halftime to give Gabon a lead they stretched during the second half through Eric Mouloungou and Daniel Cousin, before Adel Taarabt snatched a late consolation goal.
A Cameroon side transformed by the arrival of French coach Paul le Guen have 10 points, Gabon nine, Togo five and Morocco three. The Lions cannot be overtaken if they triumph on Nov. 14 in Rabat.
Egypt kept alive hopes of overtaking Group C pacesetters Algeria with a fortunate 1-0 victory in Zambia courtesy of a strike from Hosny Abd Rabou. Algeria (plus five) lead Egypt (plus three) on goal difference.
• Denmark, England, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Serbia, Spain
• Brazil, Chile, Paraguay
• Mexico, US
• Australia, North Korea, South Korea, Japan
• South Africa (hosts), Ghana, Ivory Coast
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