Nigeria on Friday hammered African champions Cameroon to virtually seal a place at next year’s FIFA World Cup, but Ghana drew and South Africa lost to suffer serious qualifying setbacks.
Current and former Chelsea midfielders Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel scored one goal and created another as hosts Nigeria overwhelmed Cameroon 4-0 in southeastern Uyo.
A late strike from Atletico Madrid’s Thomas Partey salvaged a 1-1 home draw for lackluster Ghana against the Republic of the Congo in Kumasi.
Russia-based Nuno Rocha broke the hearts of confident South Africa by scoring twice as Cape Verde came from behind to triumph 2-1 in Praia.
The return of Moses and Mikel to the Super Eagles lineup coincided with the best Nigeria performance in years as they crushed this year’s Africa Cup of Nations winners.
It was a record-equaling winning margin for Nigeria in a World Cup qualifier and the heaviest defeat suffered by Cameroon in an African eliminator.
Nigeria can take an unassailable lead in the “group of death” if they win in Cameroon tomorrow — provided Zambia and Algeria draw in Lusaka.
Even one Group B point in Yaounde, Cameroon, would send Nigeria to Russia, if Zambia and Algeria draw twice.
Nigeria have nine points, Cameroon two and Zambia and Algeria one in a mini-league that, so far, has proven far more one-sided than anticipated.
Odion Ighalo and Mikel scored in the opening half and Moses got the victory-sealing third on 55 minutes after Nigeria had survived intense Cameroon pressure.
Recent Leicester City signing Kelechi Iheanacho nodded the fourth goal to give Nigeria their widest winning margin since trouncing Zimbabwe 5-1 in Abuja 12 years ago.
“After the third goal, we were not a team,” Cameroon coach Hugo Broos said. “We did not have power to fight.”
The Belgian said before the match that the Indomitable Lions needed to take at least four points off Nigeria to have a realistic chance of topping the table and qualifying.
Ghana, seeking a fourth consecutive World Cup appearance, fell behind midway through the opening half when Congo captain Thievy Bifouma scored from close range.
It took the misfiring Black Stars until five minutes from time to level as Partey ran on to a through ball and fired across the goalkeeper and into the net.
Ghana laid siege to Congo’s goalmouth in the closing minutes, but wild shooting, especially from Thomas Agyepong, let them down.
Uganda top Group E with seven points, one more than Egypt after beating them 1-0 in Kampala on Thursday. Ghana have two and Congo one.
South Africa made a good start in Cape Verde with Tokelo Rantie proving too quick for his pursuers to give the visitors an early lead.
However, Rocha scored twice inside six minutes before halftime, with a deflected shot and from a penalty, to turn the tide on the windswept Atlantic Ocean island state.
Rattled South Africa rarely looked like leveling and were reduced to 10 men entering the final quarter, when defender Erick Mathoho got a straight red card.
Burkina Faso and South Africa have four points in Group D, with Senegal and Cape Verde on three ahead of a match yesterday between Senegal and Burkina Faso in Dakar.
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