Ivory Coast joined Nigeria in the World Cup finals on Saturday after a 1-1 draw against Senegal gave them a 4-2 aggregate win on a tense night in neutral Casablanca.
Ivory Coast reached a third successive World Cup, but they had to survive a tense conclusion to their play-off second-leg clash after Senegal had gone ahead 1-0 on the night through a 77th-minute penalty by substitute Moussa Sow, after the lively Sadio Mane was fouled by Didier Drogba.
Another goal would have put Senegal through on away goals, but Ivory Coast finished on top when Salomon Kalou drew his team level in stoppage-time courtesy of a quick counter attack just moments after Kara Modji failed to double Senegal’s lead from 6m.
Earlier on Saturday, Nigeria qualified for a fifth World Cup after beating Ethiopia 2-0 at home in Calabar for a 4-1 winning aggregate.
In a match played in Casablanca after Senegal were punished for crowd trouble at home, Ivory Coast attacked from onset, forcing the Senegalese to concede two corners in the first five minutes.
Idrissa Gueye of Senegal fired at the Ivorian goal from the edge of the box after 13 minutes, but the ball sailed wide.
In the 18th minute, goalkeeper Boubacar Barry did well to keep out a Senegal free-kick as the home team pressed for an opening goal.
Gervinho, from Italian club Roma, continued to be a serious threat to the Senegalese defense with his tricky runs down the flanks.
Sadio Mane came close to giving Senegal the lead in the 63rd minute, but his shot sailed wide off target.
Senegal continued to pile on the pressure after their penalty in the 77th minute for the goal that would have qualified them for the World Cup, but it was not to be.
In Nigeria, Victor Moses gave the home team the lead after 20 minutes when he tucked away a penalty after Anyalem Hailu handled the ball inside his box.
Substitute Victor Obinna doubled Nigeria’s lead on 82 minutes when he fired home a free-kick to kill off the game and the tie.
The reigning African champions march on to their fifth World Cup finals, having also featured at the 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2010 tournaments.
However, the Super Eagles’ display on Saturday inside the packed 15,000-capacity U.J. Esuene Stadium in Calabar was labored and, until Obinna’s late goal, Ethiopia were still in with a chance.
CSKA Moscow forward Ahmed Musa said it was a dream come true to qualify for what will be his first World Cup, but he blamed the hot weather for the team’s subdued outing.
“I thank God for the World Cup ticket, it is a dream come true for me. It has been my dream to go to the World Cup and I have made it,” Musa said. “We would have done a lot better today, but the weather was hot and this worked against us.”
Meanwhile, Celtic defender Efe Ambrose now hopes the Eagles shine in Brazil, saying: “I am happy to be part of this history making. My target is now to help my country do well at the World Cup.”