World Cup round-up: Martins revives listless Nigeria in nick of time

Africa, host of the World Cup finals, provided a final flourish of breathtaking excitement as the continent's qualifying campaign drew to a close. Virtually simultaneous late goals in Nairobi and Maputo resulted in Nigeria booking a ticket to South Africa against the odds and Egypt sweated until the final moments of added time in Cairo to score the goal that kept their challenge alive.

Obafemi Martins was the hero for Nigeria, who had struggled to make an impact on the competition. They had to win in Kenya in their final game and hope that the group leaders, Tunisia, lost in Mozambique.

With seven minutes to play in Nairobi, Martins, once of Newcastle, hooked in the winner, his second goal of the match, to earn the Super Eagles a 3-2 victory, and at almost the same moment in Maputo, Tunisia, who had adopted a cautious approach because they needed only a draw to qualify, conceded a goal by the veteran Dario and slipped to a 1-0 defeat.

Kenya led at half-time but Martins, who now plays for Wolfsburg in Germany, equal-ised soon after the restart and Everton's Aiyegbeni Yakubu then put Nigeria ahead. Allen Wetende's equaliser for Kenya within five minutes looked to have ended Nigeria's hopes until Martins spun to hook home a cross. Nigeria had done their bit, but then the decisive news came through from Maputo to spark celebrations.

The outpourings of joy in Cairo would at least have matched those scenes, even if Egypt's campaign may yet end in failure. For the moment they have deprived Algeria of a place in the finals, thanks to Emad Meteab's looping header five minutes into added time.

Amr Zaki, familiar to fans of Wigan, had given Egypt the perfect start by scoring after only two minutes as his side went in pursuit of the 2-0 victory they needed to finish exactly level with Algeria and force a play-off in Sudan on Wednesday.

Cameroon reached their sixth finals, a record for an African nation, when they beat Morocco 2-0 in Fes. Like Nigeria, Cameroon had struggled to secure their place, but they did not leave it quite so late, winning their last four qualifiers.

New Zealand, led by Blackburn centre-half Ryan Nelsen, also qualified – for the second time – thanks to a goal from Plymouth Argyle's Rory Fallon and a penalty save by goalkeeper Mark Paston as they won their play-off against Bahrain 1-0 after a goalless first leg.

Russia took a tentative step closer to the finals when Diniyar Bilyaletdinov scored twice in a 2-1 victory over Slovenia in the first leg of their play-off in Moscow. The Everton winger scored either side of half-time, assisted first by Spurs' Roman Pavlyuchenko and then Arsenal's Andrey Arshavin. However, Slovenia ensured the return leg in Maribor on Wednesday would be no picnic when Nejc Pecnik pulled a goal back two minutes from time.

Ukraine look favourites to qualify from their play-off with Greece after a 0-0 draw in Athens, while Portugal, without Cristiano Ronaldo, gained only a 1-0 edge over Bosnia in Lisbon, Bruno Alves scoring and Bosnia hitting the woodwork three times – twice in the last minute. Both the return matches are on Wednesday.

In friendly games, Northern Ireland lost 1-0 to Serbia despite having chances to take the lead, PSV's Danko Lazovic settling the issue in the 57th minute. The Irish lost Manchester United defender Jonny Evans to a calf injury, while Arsenal will be anxious for news of Robin van Persie, who was carried off after 16 minutes of Holland's dreary 0-0 draw against Italy in Pescara.

England Under-21s improved their chances of reaching the European Championship in Denmark in 2011 when a single goal by Spurs' Danny Rose proved enough to beat Portugal 1-0 at Wembley.

David Beckham made missing the game against Brazil worthwhile when he earned the chance to win his first Major League Soccer title as his Galaxy side overcame Houston Dynamo 2-0 after extra time – and two floodlight failures – to reach the MLS Cup final. The England midfielder set up the opening goal with a free-kick.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition