Senegal, Cote d'Ivoire open World Cup qualifying in styleBy AGENCIES | Monday, June 4 2012 at 16:12
African champions Zambia lost in Sudan, Cote d'Ivoire made a winning start under a new coach, and Senegal overcame two shocks to defeat Liberia in 2014 World Cup qualifiers Saturday.
South Africa could only draw with Ethiopia in Rustenburg in a game that ratcheted up the pressure on Bafana Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane while Niger and Gabon also drew.
Zambia swept aside Sudan in the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals with France-born coach Herve Renard saying the losers played "sleep-inducing" football.
But the Sudanese Falcons were wide awake for the Group D clash in sweltering Khartoum, dominating from the kick-off to the final whistle with second-half goals from Mohamed Tahir and Saifeldin Ali securing a 2-0 victory.
Renard, reportedly being paid $100,000 dollars a month with the goal of taking Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets) to the World Cup finals for the first time, had premonitions before flying to Khartoum.
"I'm really sure we are not the best team in Africa ... there are some teams that are stronger than us and we know that ... we have to be very, very good to go to the World Cup," he told the BBC before matchday one across Africa.
And it does not get any easier for Zambia, who edged Cote d'Ivoire on penalties to win the African title, with a June 9 home fixture against Ghana, who humiliated Lesotho 7-0 Friday in a match interrupted by a power failure.
Former France international Sabri Lamouchi, put in charge of Cote d'Ivoire this week despite no coaching experience, saw the Elephants overcome 10-man Tanzania 2-0 in Group C match via goals from Salomon Kalou and Didier Drogba.
Chelsea Champions League hero Drogba, who blazed a penalty over in regulation time of the final against Zambia, struck a free kick against the woodwork in Abidjan and scored the second goal after Aggrey Morris was red carded.
Senegal, who went to the 2012 Cup of Nations as third favourites only to lose all three group games, conceded a second-minute goal against Liberia in Dakar and Newcastle United sharpshooter Papiss Demba Cisse missed a penalty.
But the Teranga Lions lowered the blood pressure of caretaker coach Joseph Koto by levelling through Ibrahima Balde before half-time and late goals from Dame Ndoye and Sadio Mane delivered a 3-1 Group J success.
Morocco, another country to make an unexpected first round exit from the Cup of Nations in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, drew 1-1 in Gambia with Houssine Kharja equalising after Abdou Jammeh struck early for the Scorpions.
Tunisia fought back to beat Equatorial Guinea 3-1 in Monastir, Sierra Leone defeated Cape Verde Islands more convincingly than the 2-1 Freetown scoreline suggests and Burkina Faso were held 0-0 in Ouagadougou by Congo Brazzaville.
Ahead of South Africa's game with Ethiopia in Rustenburg, the Bafana Bafana coach Mosimane said only a win would do.
But instead of the hosts, ranked 67th in Fifa's world rankings compared to their 138th-placed opponents, achieving that target they almost suffered an embarrassing defeat.
A disappointing South Africa were held by an impressive Ethiopia in Rustenburg on Sunday.
Said Saladin scored in the first half to give Ethiopaa deserved lead and it looked like Bafana Bafana's bad run - five draws and two defeats in their last seven games - would continue.
But Mphela curled in a shot in the 77th minute to snatch a 1-1 draw, sparing the blushes of South Africa and preventing Ethiopia from securing what would have been only their second away win in four decades of World Cup qualifying.
After the game, Mosimane hinted that his team may have suffered from complacency.
"Our guys thought it was going to be easy but we must give our opponents credit," he said. "Maybe this is a wake up call."
The decline in South Africa's fortunes since hosting the 2010 World Cup, including missing out on qualifying for the 2012 African Nations Cup finals because they misread the rules, meant only about 5,000 spectators turned up to watch the game.
On Saturday, Central African Republic recorded their first win in World Cup qualifying when beatingBotswana 2-0in Bangui.
In other games Burkina Faso drew at home 0-0 to Congo, Kenya also drew a blank with Malawi in Nairobi while Nigeria downed Namibia 0-1 away in Calabar.
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