African champions Zambia lost in Sudan, Ivory Coast made a winning start under a new coach and Senegal overcame two shocks to defeat Liberia in 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers on Saturday.
Zambia swept aside Sudan in this year’s Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals with France-born coach Herve Renard saying the losers played “sleep-inducing” soccer.
However, Sudan were wide awake for the Group D clash in sweltering Khartoum, dominating from the kick-off to the final whistle with second-half goals from Mohamed Tahir and Saifeldin Ali to secure a 2-0 victory.
Renard, reportedly being paid US$100,000 a month with the goal of taking Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets) to the World Cup finals for the first time, had premonitions before flying to Khartoum.
“I’m really sure we are not the best team in Africa ... there are some teams that are stronger than us and we know that ... we have to be very, very good to go to the World Cup,” he told the BBC before the match.
And it does not get any easier for Zambia, who edged Ivory Coast on penalties to win the African title, with a home fixture on Saturday against Ghana.
Former France international Sabri Lamouchi, put in charge of Ivory Coast last week despite no coaching experience, saw Les Elephants overcome 10-man Tanzania 2-0 in Group C play via goals from Salomon Kalou and Didier Drogba.
Chelsea Champions League hero Drogba, who blazed a penalty over in regulation time of the final against Zambia, struck a free-kick against the woodwork in Abidjan and scored the second goal after Aggrey Morris was red-carded.
Senegal, who went to this year’s Africa Cup of Nations as third favorites only to lose all three group games, conceded a second-minute goal against Liberia in Dakar and Newcastle United sharpshooter Papiss Demba Cisse missed a penalty.
However, the Lions of Teranga lowered the blood pressure of caretaker coach Joseph Koto by leveling through Ibrahima Balde before halftime and late goals from Dame Ndoye and Sadio Mane delivered a 3-1 Group J success.
Morocco, another country to make an unexpected first round exit from the Cup of Nations in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, drew 1-1 in Gambia with Houssine Kharja equalizing after Abdou Jammeh struck early for the Scorpions.
Tunisia fought back to beat Equatorial Guinea 3-1 in Monastir, Sierra Leone defeated Cape Verde Islands more convincingly than the 2-1 Freetown scoreline suggests and Burkina Faso were held 0-0 in Ouagadougou by the Republic of the Congo.