Burkina Faso, Nigeria advance; Zambia out
Burkina Faso, Nigeria advance; Zambia out
Burkina Faso topped the Group C standings above Nigeria on goal difference but Zambia crashed out following dramatic conclusions to the final round of matches.
Nigeria overcame strong resistance from Ethiopia in Rustenburg but two late penalties from Victor Moses set up a heavyweight clash with the Ivory Coast in Sunday’ quarterfinals. Burkina Faso will play Tunisia or Togo, ensuring at least one surprise semi-finalist.
Zambia’s failure to beat Burkina Faso meant they suffered the ignominy of being the first holders to go out in the first round in defense of their title since Algeria in 1992.
Burkina Faso went into Tuesday’s final group matches with a two-point advantage and quickly set about building a defensive fortress to keep Zambia at bay and seal a place in last eight for the first time since 1998.
But the holders were still in contention as long as Nigeria were being held goalless by Ethiopia who had not been expected to put up such stout resistance.
Had both matches ended goalless, Zambia and Nigeria would have finished tied on points, goal difference and goals scored and would have had to be separated by their disciplinary records.
The scenario of a last-eight place being determined by a countback of yellow cards or toss of a coin was alive until Moses converted an 80th-minute penalty to put Nigeria ahead.
That meant Zambia had to go for the win against Burkina Faso to join them in the top two places and they threw everything forward to force a breakthrough. They had been restricted to a single real chance in the 17th minute squandered by Collins Mbesuma.
Central defenders Stopilla Sunzu and Hichani Himoonde joined three strikers up front to create a siege on the Burkina goal but the Burkinabe defended for all they were worth.
Center back Bakary Kone suffered a cut to the mouth in a clash of heads and was bleeding in the final exchanges.
Coach Paul Put called it a historic night for Burkina Faso football.
“We had double motivation being close to qualification and playing against the champions. I told the players this chance might never come again,” he told reporters.
As time ebbed away in Nelspruit, Nigeria added a second goal through another Moses penalty in Rustenburg.
Moses struck the second past outfield player Addis Hintsa who had to go in goal after keeper Sasay Bancha was sent off for bringing down Moses in the box in the 85th.
Ethiopia had used all three substitutes and finished with 10 men for the second time in the competition after keeper Jemal Tassew was also dismissed in their opening match against Zambia.
“I was not really aware that we were absolutely level (with Zambia) because I was concentrating so much on our game but in the end it did not matter because the Gods smile don us,” said Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi.
“I thought Ethiopia made it hard for us, they were very organized and played well but we deserved it in the end.” Zambia depart after three unconvincing draws but a spirited finish.
Zambia coach Herve Renard said he could not fault his players.
“They gave everything,” he said. “It’s better to at least have one a title in your life than get to the quarter-final and crash out every time.”
Heartbreak for Mohamed Salah and Egypt as Russia all but secure last-16 spot
ST. PETERSBURG: Russia scored three goals in a 15-minute span early in the second half to set up a 3-1 win over Egypt on Tuesday, moving the host nation to the brink of the World Cup’s knockout stage.
Mohamed Salah won and converted a penalty for a consolation goal on his return from injury but Egypt’s first World Cup in 28 years could be over in barely five days following a second straight loss.
Ahmed Fathi poked the ball into his own net — the fifth own-goal of the tournament — to put Russia ahead in the 47th minute. Then Denis Cheryshev and Artyom Dzyuba scored in quick succession to leave Russia on course for a victory that followed up a 5-0 opening-night win over Saudi Arabia.
It was Cheryshev’s third goal of the World Cup, putting him tied with Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the scoring chart.
Russia’s place in the round of 16 will be assured if Uruguay wins or draws against the Saudis on Wednesday. Those two scenarios would also eliminate Egypt, which started with a 1-0 loss to Uruguay.
The hopes of 100 million Egyptians were raised when Salah was selected in the starting lineup, the Liverpool forward making his comeback after 3 1/2 weeks out with damaged ligaments in his left shoulder after a tangle with Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos in the Champions League final.
Salah trotted out for his pre-match warmup to roars from Egypt fans, who at times appeared to outnumber their Russian counterparts. They shouted every time Salah’s face flashed up on the big screen and when his name was announced before kickoff.
Yet from the start, it was clear that Salah was staying out of anything too physical and there was no concerted effort from his Egypt teammates to pick him out each time. He didn’t touch the ball until the seventh minute.
He did win the penalty — confirmed by the video assistant referee after Salah was pulled down by Roman Zobnin. He converted it in the 73rd minute, but it wasn’t enough. Egypt is still without a victory in six World Cup matches.
Russia is nearly assured of advancing from the group stage for the first time since the Soviet era.
Cheryshev, who entered the World Cup as a fringe player, is proving lethal in front of goal, with his latest a side-footed effort from close range from Mario Fernandes’ cross in the 59th. Dzyuba’s goal was more direct, the striker chesting down a long ball from defender Ilya Kutepov, beating his marker and curling home a low finish.