CAPE TOWN — Zambia marked its first home game since becoming African champion with a 1-0 win over Ghana Saturday that not only helped it relive its celebrations but also restored its World Cup hopes.
Captain Chris Katongo’s goal after 15 minutes ensured a successful opening of the new 40,000-capacity, Chinese-funded stadium in Ndola and put Zambia back on track after losing its opening Group D game in the Sudan last week.
Its win was one of five on a busy day of qualifying across the continent where the other five matches ended in draws.
Tunisia was the only away winner, beating the Cape Verde Islands 2-1, while Namibia had a rare success as Henrico Botes scored an 85th minute winner at home against Kenya.
A last-minute equalizer, in a 2-2 draw with Morocco, ended the Ivory Coast’s eight-match winning streak in qualifying fixtures stretching back to late 2009.
Nigeria also gave up a stoppage-time equalizer to draw 1-1 in Malawi, while the woes of 2010 World Cup host South Africa continued with a stalemate at lightweight neighbor Botswana.
Zambia, which won a first ever continental crown at the African Nations Cup earlier this year, played its customary counter attacking game to take all three points from a lackluster Ghana, which had beat Lesotho 7-0 the previous weekend.
The Ivorians, who Zambia beat in February’s final, were odds-on for a second win in Group C before Hamza Abdourazzouk equalized with a towering header.
Salomon Kalou and Kolo Toure had the Ivorians 2-1 ahead with 30 minutes to go and the stadium in Marrakech had started to empty before the late Moroccan reply.
Issam Jemaa again proved Tunisia’s talisman as he scored with delicate left-foot shot just after halftime to ensure victory in Praia, although he was guilty of squandering several late chances against the Cape Verdians.
Central defender Morgan Gould put South Africa into a 14th-minute lead in Gaborone with a header from captain Steve Pienaar’s corner, but Ofentse Nato scrambled home a 38th minute equaliser for hosts Botswana.
Gabon and Congo won in Group E, while new Senegal captain Papis Demba Cisse scored away against Uganda, only for a late penalty to ensure a 1-1 draw in the Group J tie in Kampala.
Another 10 African zone qualifiers are scheduled for Sunday after which the campaign for places in Brazil takes a hiatus until March next year. Tahiti wins Oceania title
Steevy Chong Hue’s 10th minute goal gave Tahiti a 1-0 victory over New Caledonia Sunday, securing the Oceania Nations Cup title and a place in the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil. — Agencies