Nigeria and South Africa both left it late on Sunday to salvage points at the start of their bids to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil on a day that emphasized the increasing vagaries of the qualifying competition in Africa.
Mali, who finished third at the Africa Cup of Nations finals earlier this year, lost 1-0 away to Benin in their opening group game, while Libya kept up their recent heroics with a 1-1 draw in Togo.
There was a dramatic late equalizer for Uganda as they salvaged a point in Angola in one of seven African qualifiers played on Sunday.
It completed a weekend of 20 matches at the start of the group phase of qualifiers for Brazil where little went with the form book.
Ike Uche delivered a rocket-like shot 10 minutes from time to spare Nigeria’s blushes against Namibia after he had earlier missed a host of good chances in Calabar.
It was modest 1-0 win for a country, whose population of more than 150 million contrasts starkly with 2 million Namibians, but it will be welcome by new coach Stephen Keshi, seeking to rebuild the team after they missed out on qualifying for this year’s Cup of Nations finals.
South Africa admitted underestimating opponents Ethiopia in their Group A game in Rustenburg, South Africa, and they emerged with a fortuitous 1-1 draw after Katlego Mphela equalized in the 77th minute.
“Our guys thought it was going to be easy, but we must give our opponents credit. Maybe this is a wake up call,” beleaguered South Africa coach Pitso Mosimane said.
Ethiopia, who had only won once in 16 previous World Cup qualifiers on the road, had taken the lead through Said Saladin on the half-hour mark.
Razak Omotoyossi scored the only goal in Cotonou as Benin overcame Mali in Group H.
Any hopes Mali had of building on their surprise semi-final spot at the Cup of Nations have evaporated in recent months after a military coup and the subsequent insecurity prompted FIFA to move their home games to neutral venues, while coach Alain Giresse departed.
Libya, by contrast, continued their fairytale progress of the past two years, despite also being forced into both preparing and playing outside of their country.
Under new coach Abdul-Hafeedh Arbeesh they battled out a draw in Togo, who were World Cup finalists six years ago.
Togo, playing again without Emmanuel Adebayor, scored first through Kalen Damessi, but Libya were level inside the opening 15 minutes through Ahmed Zuway.
Emmanuel Okwi provided an 87th-minute equalizer as Uganda pulled off a 1-1 draw away against Angola, another country who played in Germany in 2006.
A free-kick by Ibrahima Traore saw Guinea beat Zimbabwe 1-0 away, while Gabon drew 0-0 in Niger.