Goals from English Premier League pair Mame Biram Diouf and Sadio Mane snatched a 2-2 draw for Senegal away to Madagascar in an 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifying clash on Friday. Faneva Andriatsima struck in the opening half of the second-round, first-leg clash and Njiva Rakotoharimalala doubled the advantage after half-time.
But Stoke City's Diouf halved the deficit with 19 minutes left at Stade Mahamasina in Antananarivo and Mane from Southampton equalised with nine minutes remaining. Senegal, one of only three African countries to reach the World Cup quarter-finals, are 39th in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, 79 places above Madagascar.
Comoran Mohamed Soule hit the woodwork after just four minutes and Ghanaians Emmanuel Agyemang Badu and Andre Ayew saw late second-half shots rebound off the post. A lively match between teams 147 places apart on the World Ranking was staged in a wonderful atmosphere with some supporters sitting on stand roofs and on the walls of the stadium.
Cameroon, holders of the African record for World Cup appearances with seven, began impressively under new coach Alexandre Belinga by outclassing Niger 3-0 in Niamey. All the damage was inflicted within five first-half minutes as Stephane M'bia, Vincent Aboubakar and Edgar Salli scored at Stade General Seyni Kountche.
South Africa were also impressive away winners, recovering from conceding a 94-second goal to defeat Angola 3-1 at Estadio Ombaka in Atlantic city Benguela. Defeat ended a 25-match unbeaten home record by the Sable Antelopes in World Cup qualifying since losing to Cameroon in a 1990 eliminator.
Gelson gave Angola the perfect start only for goals from Tokelo Rantie and Thamsanqa Gabuza to put Bafana Bafana (The Boys) ahead by half-time. Andile Jali converted a harshly-awarded penalty eight minutes from time and was then sent off after provoking the crowd and receiving a second yellow card.
Kenya did not look a side 93 places below Cape Verde in the world as they triumphed 1-0 at Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi through an early headed goal from teenager Michael Olunga.
African champions Côte d'Ivoire launched their campaign for a fourth consecutive World Cup appearance by winning 1-0 against Liberia at Antoinette Tubman Stadium in Monrovia. In the absence of injured strikers Wilfried Bony and Salomon Kalou, and unavailable midfield talisman Yaya Toure, Belgium-based Cyriac Gohi Bi scored the late first-half winner.
Tunisia came from behind to win 2-1 in Mauritania, Nigeria drew 0-0 in Swaziland and Libya beat Rwanda 1-0 in a match moved to Tunisia for security reasons. Return matches in the 20-fixture second round are scheduled for Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday and overall winners qualify for a five-group stage that kicks off late next year.